Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poem for Poetry Thursday

The Secret

This is a metaphor--imagine
the quickening fury of a rainstorm
and you without an umbrella.
Think of the chaos it causes, scampering about
to lean the lawn chairs against the house.
The barbecue spoiled, the last gasp
of summer fun ruined.
It's the fear of the sun disappearing
into bureaucratic darkness.
You know the feeling: being in debt,
too much month at the end of the money.
This is the secret you carry,
kept alive by all that's unpopular in you,
rejecting wisdom, say,
your dad's voice in your head
telling you not to be "all dollars and no sense,"
that thank-god-it's-Friday-
what-do-I-do-in-between feeling.
It becomes what you protect the most
alongside the house with its collections of things
and those secret journal entries written in longhand,
in the tiniest type you can manage.
The feeling so palpable
you just want to break something,
turn the place upside down
and tell no one.
Fragile as a leaf,
your silence becomes a kind of truth.
When you speak to your lover,
your closest friend
you leave your impoverished heart
out of the conversation.

Happy Poetry Thursday!

I've wanted to write this poem for a while. Through reading posts by other bloggers on other sites, I wanted to write about money as a poem topic. We all have our own unique views of it, but a lot of us are mired in debt. We don't handle money well as a society. And I firmly believe that credit card companies have convinced us all not to use cash and pay exorbitant amounts of interest to buy stuff we don't need. It's hard to resist with advertisements that tell us "Life Takes Visa."


I understand what it means to be in debt, but I also know what it means to see a light at the end of the tunnel (and know it's not an oncoming train!). It's funny how most people would rather talk about their sex lives instead of how much they earn. Money is the last taboo.

So I think this poem qualifies as falling into the realm of the Poetry Thursday prompt. The phrase "too much month at the end of the money" is a saying used by financial expert Dave Ramsey. Also, I post a new poem weekly outside of my office door, usually from By having poetry in the office, I found out a coworkers reads Sharon Olds. Very cool!

Now, I'd also like to try an experiment. Since the poem I wrote is called "The Secret," I want to hear a secret from you. In a separate post, I want you to tell me a secret, but post anonymously. At some point, I'll post anonymously, too. By the end of the weekend, I'd like to have a running list of secrets that I'll post next week.


Deb R said...

I always like your poems so much, and this one is no exception. Very cool take on a difficult subject. (I'm no exception to your observation. I'd much rather talk about my sex life than my money life!)

jenclair said...

Wow! This is a topic I've considered much, especially lately. I see that so many people want things, work for them, go in debt for them, and are so miserable. To work so many hours to have a wonderful house, and not enough money to buy a bottle of wine or have guests to dinner (overheard conversation).

But mostly I love how you were able to take this topic and make it so intriguing, and I adore the line "When you speak to your lover,/
your closest friend /
you leave your impoverished heart /
out of the conversation."

Lynn said...

I just read your poem with my favorite song playing in the background. (I didn't plan it that way; it just worked out that way.) And I couldn't imagine any better way to start the day. I know you say this poem is about money, but it's about so much more.

I definitely fits the prompt, focusing on an everyday event, working in the phrase all dollars and no sense.

I love what you do with moments other people might not notice or comment on. How you break those moments wide open and turn them into something bigger.

And, I would love to use your secrets theme as a (completely and totally optional) idea for Poetry Thursday sometime, if you don't mind. I think it would be a fantastic writing prompt.

I have to go think of a secret now. I have one in mind. There are just so many to choose from.

January said...

Debr: Thanks. It's tough to make something basic seem interesting. But the truth is I'm facinated with how people afford their lives. In a way, it's like a spectator sport for me.

Jenclair: thanks for the feedback. Can't wait to check out your blog.

Lynn: Steal away, my dear. Steal away.

liz elayne said...

this is powerful my dear. putting this subject out there into the world...
and the images you use in this poem are fantastic (not that i would know anything about tiny type).
and "the secret" - will be so interesting to read these...and to share one.

wendylou who? said...

my grandmother used to say... robbing peter to pay paul. I love the image of what you protect most..the house and all the goodies and the SECRET...of how they came to be...

bb said...

*your impoverished heart*
speaks volumes.
thanks for splitting open more of the quotidian with your wonderful insights.

kaleidoscope said...

i love your poem. thanks. also, i assume you've seen Post Secret? If not, I think you'll enjoy it. I visit every week.

January said...

I have seen Post Secret, which was in the back when I came up with the secrets post. But I wanted to create something specific for this fabulous community of writers, somthing focusing on the words.

jim said...


I love all the misdirection you've got going on in this breezy (so breezy it snaps with each line!) riff, and yes, I know the feeling, all of it.

A secret will be forthcoming.

Jeanne said...

Absolutely beautiful! My favorite poems are the ones that inspire poem envy (*not* jealousy!). Man am I envious of the wonderful way you've strung words together so they split things apart:-)

kaleidoscope said...

cool, I like this idea, January. I checked back just now to see what secrets people wrote. i like the word-focus and the potential for immediate secret-sharing.

January said...

Feel free to post as many secrets as you like, anonymously of course.

pepektheassassin said...

Your poetry is very visual and sensory--great images, and well said.

Now, I have a secret to tell you....

chiefbiscuit said...

This is a wonderful poem (again). You're right, money is the last taboo. I also wonder how others manage to do so much and to have so much - seemingly without debt ... or money worries. Are we all pretending?

Kristine said...

Great poem! It's true - people avoid talking about money at all costs. I had a job where it was taboo to talk about money to the point that no one would mention relief about, looking forward to , or needing payday. No one ever talked about payday. Isn't that stange? I thought so.

Left-handed Trees... said...

Oh my...this poem cuts close for me. "Tell no one" is a phrase for so many things--but, money is one people dodge whether there is a lack or an abundance. Your words comfort deeply...

Secrets? Well...

Neasa said...

I love this poem so much. My favorite line:
"When you speak to your lover,
your closest friend
you leave your impoverished heart
out of the conversation."

I'm finding that reading your (& others at PT) poetry is expanding my eye & ear - I'm very grateful for this.

RavenGrrl said...

Fragile as a leaf your silence becomes a kind of truth.

a thoughtful poem, January ... full of truth itself. I can hear the poem in my head even w/o saying it aloud -- like one long stage-whispered secret.

Your poem's first phrase, This is a metaphor -- is almost like someone prefacing what they are about to say to a friend, with "This is a secret -- so don't tell anyone..." I like this!

shann said...

very very cool poem- I'm so glad you visited me! Now I found you!

Cate said...

After reading your poetry, I'm practically speechless, UNABLE to coherently convey my reaction to your words and your talent. You inspire me to want to write my day, my life, my thoughts--just to mire myself in words. I will be scribbling in my notebook all afternoon--thank you for that. And thank you for sharing your gift and renewing my appreciation for the possibilities of language.

So many truths here, leaving me with so much to consider--question after question (just what I've wanted :).

Wonderful post, January, as always! xo

ecm said...

I love the phrase, "too much month at the end of the money"

January said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, and for those are visiting for the first time, a special thank-you.

The topic of debt ignites so much in me that I'm surprised I don't talk about it more. Most people have it and no one wants to talk about it.

Also, I've put the "tell me a secret" post on my sidebar, so if you find yourself with more secrets to confess, please do.


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