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poetry Speaking of Disinformation

“I was trying to understand, on a smaller scale than national politics,” writes Vermont poet Rebecca Starks, “how an obvious falsehood can seem obviously true to someone else.”

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Speaking of Disinformation

By Rebecca Starks

I am remembering for a friend

who grew up in a household

with an alcoholic father

whose illness was kept secret

from the kids, only the mom knew

why all the copies of the key

to the car trunk were broken off

but one, the one he kept with him—

I am remembering for her

how one day while the kids

watched cartoons on the couch

they found a half-empty

vodka bottle wedged between the cushions

and brought it to their mom,

not knowing what it was,

and how later that evening when

the father had them all stand

in front of the couch where he sat

on one cushion, their mom on the other,

hands folded in her lap, a cardboard

storage box resting on the crack

between them, and once everyone was still

proceeded to explain

that this bottle was a prize

he was meant to give out

at an awards ceremony, it had come

in this cardboard box, with its two

sets of flaps he opened

to demonstrate how it must have

slipped out and fallen between

the cushions, where some of it

evidently spilled and evaporated—

how the kids wouldn’t have remembered

beyond that day to this

except that it seemed so strange

and formal, the way he called

a press conference about it

when it was plain as day:

the box, the bottle, the crack

between the cushions.

Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse, forthcoming from Able Muse Press. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Baltimore Review, Ocean State Review, Slice Literary, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Winner of Rattle‘s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor, she is a co-founder of Mud Season Review and on the board of Sundog Poetry. She works as a freelance editor and workshop leader; teaches for the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning program at the University of Vermont; and plays violin in the Me2 Orchestra, in support of its mission to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. She lives with her family in Richmond, Vermont.