If the kept secrets of our finished lives
Some day rise up, what a doomsday they will have:
From the numberless houses, deserts, caves
Of its human stay, each whole anatomy
Of the man's affection, and the woman's, each family
Of true deceptions, will be reunited, abler than old bones
To sing, and with more to sing about--a valley
Of buried secrets, rising to claim their own.
'Why were we secret?' one of the true may ask
Among the yawning bodies of affection
That wake on the valley floor. 'Why did I risk
My blood and hair and bones in that deception?'
Or another, more thoughtful secret ask, 'Hence-
forth how will a person relish hate or shame,
Or manage love without its reticence,
And everybody calling things by name?'
But then a voice will silence all who had slept
And the host of the false secrets will tremble
As the names are read of those that were well kept,
Of all with honest reason to dissemble.
All generous and well-intentioned lies,
All expensive silences, will earn eternal silence then,
But all vain secrets will that voice expose
Like the flaming souls of wicked medieval men.
Therefore, my secrets, shades of hate and fear
And love (who outnumbers all the tribes
As, when the names are published, will appear)
Prepare yourselves, so live that when that blast
Of bright exposure rends your flimsy robes
And you stand named and naked at the last,
One judging will say, after your long sleep,
This is my faithful secret, him I will keep.
Old marvel of will, me, famished for vanity
And ease, do you still rein in
And take account of general famine?
From what prowl do you slink home
Again, old slaverer, agrowl,
Remembering or dreaming of what duty?
And in this jungle of a world, what kin
Do you feel to those other weak
Beasts, sneaking and stealing,
Preferring a green flickering or a black night
To the general nourishment of the sun,
Whose only choice is choice of appetite?
Too proud to call, you howl softly, brother,
But always when you hunt
You nose out and leave some nourishment
For more than self or mate or spawn.
Not lion or horse, but not kite or vermin either,
I hear you howl to yourself
Over and over, so as not to forget, Man. I am man.
"A Vision Of Good Secrets," "Poem to Me" reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.
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