The Complication in Simple Truths


Simple truths. They abound out there. Put them to paper, though, and they may play like clichés, fast and loose. You need an angle, then. You need your own way.

Pretty much, that’s the simple complication to writing. Everyone holds any given truth to be self-evident, but only one can put it in a certain way—one that makes readers nod and say, “Yes, this illustrates that truth perfectly.”

For example, let’s see how Marjorie Saiser angles in on a simple truth with the following poem:


Weekends, Sleeping In
Marjorie Saiser

No jump-starting the day,
no bare feet slapping the floor
to bath and breakfast.

Dozing instead
in the nest
like, I suppose,
a pair of gophers

in fuzz and wood shavings.
One jostles the other
in closed-eye luxury.

We are at last
what we are:


and breath
and dream.


Visually, the poem keeps whittling itself down to basic truths, and those basics are delivered in two final stanzas that amount to one- and two-word lines. That’s all. People like gophers in wood shavings “uncombed, / unclothed, / mortal.”

Better yet, the final word of the final stanza, so different than the physiological ones that precede it: “Pulse / and breath / and dream.” This time the short waves come without punctuation or hesitation, but we are more than just autonomous pulse and breath. We are the stuff of dreams.

A basic truth about a lazy day with a loved one. Terribly uncomplicated, really, until you tackle the complication of saying it your own way.