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Secrets

Carolyn Smart
From:   Stoning the Moon. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1986.


(for my sister, Lindsay)

Somewhere beneath your skin is a pocket of secrets.
I know where mine is: farther down the body, I suspect,
than yours. When in labour with Nicholas,
I felt my body lifted from the bed, arching, swaying
with his need to be free of me, but I was held
and pinned, quivering with secrets. You sat by the bed,
waiting with me for a while, counting seconds for me,
knowing there was nothing else you could do.
How often we've felt that uselessness, standing by
Mother's bed as I cracked jokes, you crying before
she waved us both away. We told each other secrets then,
giggling with nerves: she couldn't be dying, wasn't she
beautiful, weren't we strangely unafraid, weren't we
relieved when she left town because we didn't need to lie
any more, if only to ourselves.

Somehow we knew we'd find Father like we did, although
afraid of the dead so we couldn't look at him
lying there in his plastic shoes, I imagine his eyes
were open, his tongue swollen, body bloated, having lost
everything and then suddenly his life. We'd thought about
the funeral for years, how this time we wanted to do it up
right: flowers, cars, a hymn. There were men who cried
and called him a gentleman as you stood next to me
knowing the same thing as I: that we hated him,
that we loved him, that the anger and pain
would never go away.

So much we never speak of: how we fear for each other
and would give anything we have to see each other whole
forever. Sometimes at night I think of you, your long
hands always moving. What our parents took from us,
what we tried to give, all we failed to do. Our giant
mistakes. But with you there, it's all right to know
we'll never get away from all we've seen. I see you smile,
that special, private way, and I take heart.



Carolyn Smart's works copyright © to the author.


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