Gerald Stern

The Truth

I get the sense that she is not cooperative in English
and on the last leg of her trip into New York City
going through the tunnel and briefly through the light
and into another tunnel but this time for good
she sits until the line is in front of her
singing a little Christman chanty, her nose
running but otherwise decent, the smile extreme
but not forced, the coffee stains nothing, the ugly
lying tabloid under her feet, whatever the
language is, also nothing, and I, eternal
sucker, I wipe my eyes for I belong to
a certain breed of men who when the train jerks
then slows down on the platform it is a drama
extreme, and there is a time I wouldn’t have lost her
and there is a time I followed someone, I say it
with shame and mortification, for half a day
because I couldn’t bear it, I would have lost
everything, I hung on to a thread, how
was it different with Dante? though I ended
lost—and entangled—however he ended.

Gerald Stern
“The Truth” is from Save The Last Dance (W. W. Norton, 2008).