Mother Knows Best: Secrets

Written by

Jim Moore
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For more than forty years I've been writing poems about my mother. She remains a kind of touchstone for me: if I am writing about her (to her?) I know that I am deeply in my territory, a psychic landscape at once familiar and strange, like a city you love, but which is far away—you go there as often as you can precisely because it overwhelms you, reminds you that your love for it is finally beyond all understanding.

"Secrets" is one of the first poems I wrote about my mother, also one of my first prose poems. I was nervous about showing it to her. Perhaps it would be too revealing for her to be at ease with it. I remember the note of disappointment in her voice when she finished reading the poem and said, "I thought you said this was a poem about me; but it's not a poem at all!" My guess is that she said this because the poem isn't in lines, doesn't use rhyme or meter. I was both disappointed and relieved at her response.

Thinking about it now, all these years later, I have a sneaking suspicion she may have been right: this really isn't a poem at all. Rather, it's a love letter.


        for my mother on her birthday

        Somewhere at this very moment someone is eating peanut butter right out of the jar! He is alone and the television is off. His mother has no idea what he is doing. It is his secret. Very far away a dog barks, a horn honks. The day his grandmother died he had a crazy desire to laugh and yet he was very sad. You don’t tell your mother your secrets for fear she won’t love you.

Copyright © 2012 by Jim Moore. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.