Write What You Know

A Monkey's Harpby Michael Bradley, Spring 1998


Frustrated, sullen, confused, afraid,

I ram my head against an adage wall

a vain attempt at ‘writing what I know.’


But there’s no gain to be had in so doing

except perhaps a bleeding battered skull

and pain that slices deeper than the bone.


And so,

If I cannot write

what I do not know

then I cannot write

for I do not know

a thing.


For example;


I don’t know why a child would

destroy another child.

Nor do I know why God would let it be.


Yet all the same I do not know

why blaming God’s the way to go

for many whose confusion is

on equal par with me.


A million kinds of answers

from a thousand people trying

to make sense of things quite senseless,

but they keep on trying still.


Is this some kind of heartless game

this crazed pursuit of knowing?

A way to make the smart ones think

they’ve got it in the bag?


Who knows?

It’s sure not me

that’s in the know,

for if it’s me

that’s in the know,

I’d know.


But I see I’m no better than those thousands

for knowledge seems the fuel of my fire, too.

I want to know as bad as any other

then pass it off as wisdom in my words



This passion pulls me forward

like a carrot on a stick,

through misty-mazed confusion

into darkness pitched and thick.


I wonder.

I hope.

I yearn.

I wail for lack of knowing.


I think of that misfortuned Roman gov’nor

immortalized as killer of a God.

Whose name, reviled by most, stands yet to some

to symbolize a widely shared confusion

who ask, in Pilate’s vein, ‘what is the Truth?’


But then, of course, I realize

that even that is criticized

for I’m aware of many herds

interpreting those very words

a hundred varied ways from mine,

so even that is turpentine –

it’s knowing thinned to naught.


And so it seems that nothing

stands fast and holds to truth.

And nothing can be known

save that nothing can be known;

and perhaps not even that,

for all I know.


So how can any written word

express itself in any form

where knowing is prerequisite

and certainty be proof?


But ‘Write what you know.’

That’s what we’re told.

How can we not?

That’s what we’re told.

‘Make it from you,’

That’s what we’re told.

‘or it won’t ring true.’

That’s… hold on now!


There’s something here, perhaps.

I can’t say I know, of course.

But might it just be hidden

somewhere in this discourse,

this patter – a matter

of possible import

in this report

which I contort?


I cannot say.

I do not know.

But perhaps,

just maybe,

I hope.


I hope.

I cannot write

of what I know

But I can write

of what I hope –

There’s hope.


Hope sounds on where knowing’s mute;

the delicate wail of an antique flute.

It’s barely there, this breathy sound.

It’s only heard when the roaring’s down.


But in that silent aftermath

when we shrug off confusion’s wrath

and set aside our need for truth

we find we hear humanity’s youth

still wafting from afar.


So, spiting all I do not know,

I write regardless, here, and so.

In hope that somehow, sense exists

a fit for all us crazed misfits

Though lyrics known be long since gone

that muted music trebles on…





Still frustrated, sullen, confused, afraid;

still bleeding from a wounded stinging head.

The song of knowing long ago forgotten;

the need for knowing anything but dead.


But Hope stirs like a melody undying,

moving through our spirits, frail but whole,

that we may dance to ancient, secret music

still remembered if we seek within our soul.

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