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JoLee Gibbons Passerini


Each car in the neighborhood ticks, cooling down.
Air conditioners hum. To find one another, like cicadas,
they adjust the pitch of their whirrings.
The refrigerators wonder what it would be to make love.

One imagines its coils pressed tight against another's.
All the machines are alive: they argue about petty things.
Their gaskets are supple and necessary. After dark,
their small eyes open and close.

The roof's pitch tells me it will soon close down,
a gorgeous, toothy clam. The eaves are serrated.
If only someone would come.
Humans here are lonely. Mechanical seductions burn blue

as a gas stove. In my kitchen, the pilot light murmurs, o love.
All the lamps in my house show the ceiling cracks.
My bones are tired of being covered up.
They want to be scrubbed clean as a new door facing.

I tell them, No, bones, you belong to me.
I tell them of places we can go,
but they knock against bedposts, saying
that without me they might be knives or letter openers.

It's September. It looks like fall, but it's drought.
The sky snaps shut like a handbag.
Nothing here happens for love.
We are fooled. We are tricked into falling.



Where did "Falsehood" come from? Well, my brother is a herpetologist (he studies snakes, salamanders, etc.), I listen to NPR a lot (great story on cicadas a couple of years ago), and I moved with my parents from New Orleans to a small Alabama mill town when I was 9 years old. My friend Christy had metallic, plum-colored painted fingernails. She drove a red Mustang with no brakes to speak of. I married young and later divorced, which was rather long and painful. All that doesn't exactly explain the poem, but I don't much like it when poets talk a lot about their poems. I think the connections between ecology and romantic love are amazing, much more than I should probably try to articulate here. Something about the way pine straw and pieces of bark can dissolve and rearrange themselves into a snake who tries as hard as possible to get away from the human who just almost stepped on it. Or the way drought affects fall leaf color. We are fooled into thinking it's about to be cool, but really here in Alabama we've got hot days up past Halloween, and you learn not to watch some trees but to pay attention to sumac and some other plants that are more reliable. Like love-- we people look and look, much like cicadas (look up cicadas, you'll be amazed, I promise—also the bell cricket—really!). We think we've found love. Can you imagine the microwave doing this? Read the play R.U.R. by Karel Capek, a Czech writer, and you'll see what I mean about humanity and love. That's where the poem came from: an unsuccessful romantic affair, a noisy refrigerator, cicadas, and drought. Hmm....