Years later, Oprah Winfrey is asking me, “Did you ever stop and think you could have been committing a crime?”
She pins me with her gaze, probing, attentive, waiting for my reply. Her eyes are a deep caramel, like crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e. Her face is incredibly smooth. But you don’t see this. What you see is my close-up, a pallid oval, bags under the eyes, scrawny eyebrows, lips pursed and holding fast to my words. This is my first national interview since the scandal that rocked the publishing world and made me, at least for this moment, under the torrid glare of the studio lights, the most notorious poet in the world.
“Do you think you’ve swindled your audience?” Oprah eggs me on.
I swallow. I take a minute to reply. Someone in the audience coughs. Someone else squirms in her seat. The creaking is caught by the boom mike. Oprah’s eyes shift almost imperceptibly towards the sound, then back again at me.
“It was a work of the imagination,” I tell her. “An honest lie.”
“Can a lie be honest?”
“Yes, if it’s a lie that needs to be told.”