Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Poem for Saturday: "What You Want Most ..."

The Rules of Evidence

What you want to say most
is inadmissible.
Say it anyway.
Say it again.
What they tell you is irrelevant
can't be denied and will
eventually be heard.
Every question
is a leading question.
Ask it anyway, then expect
what you won't get.
There is no such thing
as the original
so you'll have to make do
with a reasonable facsimile.

The history of the world
is hearsay. Hear it.
The whole truth
is unspeakable
and nothing but the truth
is a lie.
I swear this.
My oath is a kiss
I swear
by everything

by Lee Robinson, from Hearsay, Fordham University Press, New York, 2004.

I just found this poem on my computer. It's in a file I keep called "Poems Not My Own" which often turn out to be poems to teach. I don't remember where I collected this poem from and I don't know who Lee Robinson is. Sometimes the magic of poetry is the unexpected. What I admire about this poem is the confident voice, the humor. My favorite line: "The history of the world / is hearsay." And how these seven words encompass an idea both playful and wise. Like all my favorite ideas.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. That second stanza is a poem alone; it stands on its own, I think. I, too, like very much "The history of the world / is hearsay."

  2. Hi Maureen,

    You are right! The second stanza works better alone. Maybe we should find Mr/Ms Robinson and tell them? Maybe better not...but I do like your revision.