Poets Online Archive

In Wan Chu's Wife In Bed by Richard Jones is a tale of deception. There's the wife's adultery, of course, and the continuing artifice of her love for her husband. And there is the trick by her (well, Richard Jones) of the you, dear reader.
The surprise ending - so beloved by school children in short stories, and still hanging in there in popularity with adults if we can judge by the 52+ weeks of The DaVinci Code on the best sellers list and any number of current movies.
Jones takes us in and seduces us with her nakedness, lamplight, satin and cherry blossoms. We can even hear their little house shakes from the storm and their lovemaking. Then the gentle night of rain and sleep.
And isn't that the art of the surprise - deception?

So, your poem - some deception to be sure, maybe a little more on the beguilement, betrayal, cheat, circumvention, cunning, deceit, duplicity, fraudulence, guile, treachery, treason, or trickery path - take your pick.  And the surprise ending?  Perhaps that too - but not a requirement.



To the best of my knowledge I had never been deceived,
Until three weeks ago in art class.
Le Professeur, a talented, handsome, kind and very patient man,
Educates us by correcting our paintings and drawings.
He demonstrates by coolly drawing over a sketch using a grease pencil on transparency paper.
I painted the spine of a nude model.
He grabbed the brush from my hand, painted passionately for three minutes, and
Produced a lovely, exciting, lyrical woman.
But he did not sign the work.
I have never seen him sign any work.
As you can tell, signing a work is of great significance.
Technical drawings showing movement, size relationships of body parts, and the like
Are one of his great loves.
On that Sunday afternoon bowing slightly from the waist
He offered me a large, technical drawing,
A woman’s head facing in three directions, saying, “This is for you.”
I saw it was signed!
I felt excitement and pride.
But the feelings were not to last as the framer, examining it with a loop,
Found the drawing was a print as was the signature.
Disappointed, I felt I was deceived.
But on reflection-- I wanted something special
And was misled by my desire
As he never said it was an original.

Ellen Kaplan



She passes the face of the sun.
So they say,
but not since 1882, so no one
alive today can say they have seen it -
who can say for sure?
Not the moon, not an eclipse.
Not Roman love and beauty,
Of that they were deceived,
as were the Maya who saw her
emerge as a new star from her
trip to the underworld.
And my astrological chart
tells me that in retrograde
she appears to be moving
backwards through the zodiac:
Focusing on the past is a deception.
Look to present relationships
and avoid transitory flirtations.
Don’t look straight
into the sun.

Ken Ronkowitz



There is a big difference
Between those trick endings
And deception or denial.

Start at the ending.
There are a thousand submissions
To the poetry magazine
But Administrative Service for Children,
ACS decrees one acceptable end
Death from a nameless chronic illness

A thousand causes;
Here a rat's tail paucity of ends.

When you ask the child
They are as good at deception
As the creator of denial.

"I was away at the end,
Upstate in the system
And when the bell rang
I was asleep."

Now they say
My dream is no deception;
They are cooking at the stove
As if alive
And I want to say
Before the explosion
We will run away.

Edward N. Halperin




A grande-dame, in the winter of her life,
erect, alert, and in her time a beauty,
frequently loved and thrice a wife,
smiled slyly and cocked he eye acutely
before responding to my inquiry.

"Silly man, you'd have me define charm,
that ineffably elusive quality!"
"But frankly now," and with this took my arm,
and slowly led me to a window settee,
where she could speak without her daughters' hearing.
"Both you and I are old enough to know
there's a world of difference between seeming and being,
and charm's to disguise what you'd rather not show,
a veil of scented vapor, really deceit."
with this she had lowered her voice to a whisper.
"What real champion feels the need to cheat?"

Ben Copito




When your mother asks
if you have a fever, you say
“ my hair’s on fire.”
It sparks your face with that same flame
that finds the wrong words
for everything, that consumes
all the safe ideas.

temper, your mother says.
Your grandmother’s sure you’ll burn
the house down someday, tabby-
cat, cockatiel and all.

Again at bedtime, you ask me
what happened to our old dog Patty.
For the 14th time, I tell you
she died. “What does died
mean?” you won’t stop asking.

What can I do but lie?
I tell you, died means
gone to sleep, to rest, to dream.
I don’t say it means
release of fire unquenchable
as asking.

Yes, I lie
to quiet you.
What do I know about anything?

Taylor Graham





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