Talking on the phone


The Secret
Collected in: My Brother Running


How have we forgotten her,
the dreamy-faced girl
on this strange evening
at her grandparents' farm?
How have we forgotten
the mad aunt
who rejected her
for having such blue eyes?
Both are difficult to make out
at first, the aunt
standing in twilight
by the kitchen stove,
the niece watching how she stares
and turns to go upstairs
to her room, thinking then
she sees a woman
inside the old woman. And so,
the voices of younger sisters
and neighbor girls coming through
the window from the far
field, she rises
to follow the aunt,
and finding the tall closed
barrier between them contains
a small keyhole, kneels down
to look right through
searching she does not know
for what--a secret woman
combing out her hair?
The photograph of a man
placed on a throne
of bureau and doily?
In that door's eye she sees
old repetitious pears across a wall
and, reaching inside the small,
bare bureau to pull
a nightdress out,
her naked aunt,
now turning to show
in the very place where she
herself has just begun
to darken, a gray, matted
and forgotten V. This is the secret
the niece carries into the hall
with old furniture
losing itself in the dusk,
and into her own dim
room with its pattern
vanishing on the wall,
and deep into her brain
where she will never forget
the color that will one day
be her own color.
From some other world
her sisters call and call
her name, which she hardly knows,
lying there with both hands
between her legs, listening
to the shivering trees.


Photograph: Fifth Floor of Building 18, North Dam Mill, Biddeford, Maine