I’m born from a forked tongue’s hissing mutter,
An ungrounded half-truth, forceless and tame.
Just like a spark struck from flint I shudder
At greater forces, a delicate flame,
But human speech kindles my weak ember,
And soon I blaze through villages and towns.
Baring secrets for all to remember,
I scorch olive branches and melt gold crowns.
Lies to men I feed with ferocity,
Charming them all with my smoldering gaze.
They burn with rage, shame, curiosity,
As I conceal them in my thick grey haze.
___Yet when lucid Truth in the morning wakes,
___She cools with dewdrops my searing mistakes.


Post your answer in the comment section below.


Sharon Zhou is a graduate of both the Classics and computer science departments at Harvard University. Currently, she is pursuing doctoral studies at Stanford University in human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. Read more about her here.

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11 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    “Gossip” sounds like a winner

    I was wondering about “fake news”

  2. Kimon

    I’m not sure about the answer (i’m so terrible at riddles anyway), but I’m sure this is truly beautiful, Sharon.

  3. Sharon Zhou

    [Author] Thank you for all your responses and enthusiasm! Rumor is correct, as are gossip and most relevantly, fake news. Most precisely, the answer is fama, inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid.

    • Carl Byron

      Dear Sharon:

      I knew I was overthinking this: but it is both exceptionally wise and very timely. we’re entering a period where even the most respected media are broadcasting stories before any of the facts have been assembled. As the horrendous results unfold, your poem becomes a very serious warning for us all to watch what gets spoken. Very well done! Thank you for this.

      • Sharon Zhou

        Yes, your response of nightmare certainly points to something darker that rumor and fake news today forebode. May Truth of some form wake us from the nightmare. Thank you so much, Carl Byron, for your comments and conversation!

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