A Vision of Good Secrets


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 the blast
Of bright exposure rends your flimsy robes
And you stand named and naked at last,
One judging will say, after your long sleep,
This is my faithful secret, him I will keep.


William Meredith, Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems, Northwestern University Press, 1997.