Contrary to the picture -- thee's no pictures to llustrate keeping secrets -- today's poem by Stephen Dunn is about keeping them.
A Secret Life
Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly child.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thig, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearly, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth,
even when you speak to your best friend,
the one you'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing,
a secret life is thatimportnat.
Why this poem today? Because it says something briefly that none of the pop psychology books even touch on as far as I know. And because I found myself talking to a seat mate on an hour-long bus ride, to and fro. Talking and making choices how much to say, how much to ask as one always does with a congenial stranger you might run into in the future ... by which time the name will be forgotten but not the face and not the few facts offered each to the other.
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