End Game

by Bill Yarrow

Where the Story Lies

Everybody wants to know
where the story lies. Does it
lie in childhood? Does it lie
in old age? Does it lie in an
angry outburst or a stinging
rebuke? Does it lie in a moment
of compassion or in the recognition
of calloused selfishness? Bruised
love or hidden despair? Unfounded
ego? Personally, I couldn't care less
where the story lies. I care only
where the story tells the truth.  

Where the Story Tells the Truth

a story tell the truth? What truth?
The truth of a moment? What good is that?
A good story is an honest story, but
honesty is not the same as truth.
Anderson's “Untold Lie” is a good story.
In that story, Hal Winters, twenty-two,
asks Ray Pearson, just fifty with six kids,
whether he should marry his pregnant
girlfriend Nell. Ray mulls it over, finally
deciding to tell him “No! Don't do it!” but
before he can say anything, Hal tells him
he's decided to marry her. Ray thinks, “It's
just as well. Whatever I told him would have
been a lie.” See what I mean? Honest, yes,
but that's not at all the same as the truth.

Why Stories Can't Tell the Truth

Look, even a great story like Delmore Schwartz's
“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," which tries
to tell the truth, can't help but fail. Remember
the story? A kid in a movie theater sees on the
screen his parents in their courting days. Like
Lambert Strether in The Ambassadors, he tries
to warn them: “Don't do it! It's not too late
to change your minds!” He gets thrown out
by the usher. He's about to turn twenty one.
That's where the story ends. That's the problem.
That's the essence of the problem. It's the problem
with every story, every novel, every play, every poem.
Stories end. Novels end. Plays end. Poems end.
The truth doesn't end. It doesn't pretend to.

Every Ending Is False

Every ending is false as every beginning is false
because every ending is arbitrary as every
beginning is arbitrary. We pretend otherwise,
but our life does not commence with our birth
(had we no parents or ancestors?) nor end with
our death (had we no influence or effect?)
We didn't begin; neither do we end. Just because
a book by us or about us has a first and last page
doesn't mean that we do also. We've never not 
been here (we were potential in everyone who
came before us) and we'll never not be here (we 
persist in some way in everyone who succeeds us)
and therefore every ending is false. This one too.

Not Every Ending Is False
for Marshall Levin

Though arbitrary, not every ending is false.
Better to say not every ending is accurate.
To the extent to which no story reaches
a final conclusion, the most we can do
is echo Dostoyevsky:

   That might be the subject 
   of a new story
   but our present story
   is ended

We are the past story, the present story,
and also the new story, the future story.
We end as a stanza ends, as a chapter ends.
Our book is not just long—it is endless.

Blake said

   One thought fills immensity

I say, one person fills eternity.