Ah, the secrets are being swept ashore again
In great crashing waves they come
Pressing down upon me
Into every corner of my being.
My body betrays me,
Remembering all those shameful places
Where my mind refuses to go.
I want to die, to drown in it
To be carried away
To a place where nobody
Knows my name
But that cruel ocean won’t claim me
Instead she spits me out naked
Gasping on shore
Gasping for breath
Gasping for life.
I know I cannot hide behind those secrets anymore
I can’t bear this life of loneliness
The isolation that separates me
Because I think I am different
And all those shameful secrets
Are all my doing
I’m ashamed to live
While they, dead or dying,
Carry the horrible secret to their grave
Trusting I will do the same
I am, after all, the dutiful daughter,
The loyal niece,
keeper of the secrets,
the family pride.
I know I must tell them or perish
If I don’t tell them I shall die
But I’d rather cut out my tongue.
A woman without a tongue has no safe place in this world
She is expected to be silent
Devoid of emotion
Kneeling at the feet of men
A woman who knows her place
Is following behind
Ready to receive
That insidious embrace
That tongue down the throat
No one can crawl inside the heart of a woman without a tongue
A woman without a tongue has to pretend she has no heart.
What I know about life, about love, I could crush you with it.
(I know too much about life
And too little about love)
I have loved people without them ever knowing it
I have loved them from a distant place
On the periphery of their lives
Where I’ve always placed myself
A safe distance away
So I am not a burden
And love can’t get to me
Past that wall of secrets
That surrounds me
I have loved you.
Copyright Vera Manuel
My thanks to Doreen Manuel for permission to share this work.