Poem to be Put in a Drawer After Telling

Sean Thomas Dougherty


I can see the mountains behind you when you shake your hair,
Over one's shoulder is all that you have done.
When I walk alone through the woods in winter
I can think a secret is still walking beside me.
A secret that finds me most in the forest of silence (trees with no wind).
The branches of trees are the lines in a measure of birds.
I can't tell but sometimes I swear they are singing Billy Strayhorn.
What I mean to say is that the light through the branches
makes shapes out of shadows that move
I swear by themselves, after the light is gone and we have gone to bed.
There is nothing to fear in the dark, it is the time we learned to sing.

There is a lullaby and a name for everything wild.
He was murmuring, nearly singing in his sleep,
in another a language like a name you'd say,
or a lullaby he sang, long ago to a lost child.
The police cars do a little dance when they turn on their sirens.
The neighbors survived a war, sometimes I catch the grandfather
staring out at the sky as if staring out at his dead.
A house of lost things. We've become a house of lost things.
To announce, as Lorca says, the baptism of newly created things.
My neighbor is a very tall man, he works the nightshift at the frozen food
Back in Bosnia he was a carpenter. His son, smoking a cigarette on the porch,
told me he used to make extraordinary cabinets
full of secret drawers. What would he put in them, I asked.
He looked at me as if I was a slow child, blew some smoke into the dark,
"Secrets, of course."

Secrets across the driveway. Secrets in the tomato plants he plants in the
    back yard.
The earth itself is a secret long in the blackness of space.
A plot to keep our secrets. A secret plot.
I want no secrets you said, once years ago, and then lied to me.
Sometimes for hours he speaks I cannot understand. His loss is another.
How many dead he carries? I carry seven. Seven dead.
One for the water. One for the bed. We all end up in the earth or ash.

When one is weary and worn we wear our secrets on the outside.
When I was not yet grown I knew a boy, a boy who hung himself
by the noose of a secret. Sometimes in the dark I can still hear him
trying to tell us. A rope is a secret that carries the weight of one.
One secret.

Last night I heard my neighbor in the backyard hammering something
I could not see, hammering some secret.
If you were a secret, you would be a secret like a mountain.
Or a river. Or an oak seed falling through the dark.
When you look at me you I say you are a secret.
But you say, I am right in front of me.

Your eyes are not blue like water. They are brown like wood. They are full of
A secret drawer of secret pills.
When a door closes there is not telling.
Sometimes late at night I hear you in the kitchen.
What secret losses burning inside you?
Even when I tell you my secrets
I am keeping something for myself.
The act of telling is also a secret to somebody.
The trees tell their secrets in a secret language
only the birds understand. They turn the secrets into songs.

Once I found my neighbor dead
drunk asleep in a pile of leaves.
on his face was the strangest silliest smirk
of a secret.