_Lying to Live_ 

Inspired by the 1971 SOUL! Discussion program
featuring Nikki Giovanni & James Baldwin 

James Baldwin said that he could never lie
to the ones he truly loved – but that was a lie.
Nikki Giovanni knew that we’d love & lie
(& there may be a reason why) 

but all that matters is us, living
& loving & lying together. & that’s okay.
I’ve already lied today. I haven’t been sleeping
so I’ve been faking my dreams & calling it living 

lucid, calling it inception, deception, depression,
calling it on the phone to ask it for company.
Can you blame me? If we all woke
where are the dreams? Harder to remember than ever. 

They get misquoted & manipulated like MLK’s dream.
We’ve been exploited & baited by the American dream.
It seems dystopias were created as lies named paradise.
Do you wonder if our basic truths are based on lies? 

Outdated textbooks with colonial missions,
written & riddled with lies of omission
that tricked us to listen constantly to the whispers:
You are worthless, ugly, dumb, alone.

Raise your hand if you’ve never told a lie.
Let me read the fiction in the lines
of your palm: In fact, I already know
we’re liars, I only want to know what kind 

of liar so we can make little lairs
of layers of liars & call them falsehoods
& call them duplicity cities & call them fib cribs
& call them when we need to. 

Be honest: you felt more comfortable when I didn’t
admit that we live in a society that lies habitually.
But what is lyric without lyre? Sometimes we must lie
to survive, rooted in this world of untruth. 

Do you know why we don’t admit our lies? 

                         Because too many times our truths are denied before our eyes
Because corporations bide
time in loopholes & fake trials
Because we daily gender criticize to all of our demise
                         Because we can’t recognize the violence in how we’ve been
socialized Because police
departments disguise
                         that their money buys a monopoly on crime
                         eschewing indictments as their victims die while hiding
the thousands of rape kits left
uninvestigated & sterilized 

Tell me: where is the damn lie? 

The truth can hurt so much
I hardly handle it.
The truth is never tangible
& brutal honesty is just that: brutal. 

Maybe the truth is
the world is brutal.
I won’t take the cruel
world just as it is 

just as we are
dying to live
lying to live–
I’ll look us in the face 

& say lie
& say life
& there are many
reasons why. 



Aerik “phaentompoet” Francis is a Queer Black & Latinx poet & teaching artist based in Denver, Colorado, USA. They are event coordinator for Slam Nuba and a poetry reader for Underblong poetry journal. Aerik is a recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo and The Watering Hole. They are also a Winter Tangerine alum, and the recipient of the Amiri Baraka Scholarship for Naropa University’s 2019 Summer Writing Program, as well as the Robert Hayden Scholarship for Stockton University’s 2021 Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway. They have poetry published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Wildness, Santa Clara Review, Ghost City Press, Kissing Dynamite, and other locations and anthologies. Find them on IG/TW @phaentompoet

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