Lunch Poems

Beware of False Friends

A new poem about lies and truth, and the fact that George Washington’s transplanted teeth were not made of wood, but probably came from his slaves.

It’s autumn in the capital.
The neighbors’ chickens have lost their charm.

Sometimes I think my only problem
is that I don’t have anyone to talk to
who doesn’t also have to listen to me.

In German, the word “gift” means poison.

How long can the one lie I tell
in every poem be
the palm that pins the angel’s neck?

I lied when I said
I would only lie once.

And I hope we can meet in person someday
so you can tell me what you think of
what little you remember of this.

It will give us something
to talk about on the way home.

This and the fact that George Washington’s dentures
weren’t made of wood,
they were constructed from his slaves’ teeth.
No one ever saw him smile,
but from deep in the forest
his whistle could be heard for miles.

Dobby Gibson is the author of Polar (Alice James Books, 2005), which won the Beatrice Hawley Award, and Skirmish (Graywolf Press, 2009). A new collection of poems is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2013. He lives in Minneapolis. More by Dobby Gibson