by Lee Upton
I like a private life, it’s true.
Sometimes it’s so private if I say something that’s even a little bit arguably
I feel disdain for myself.
I remember how cruel people were to my mother when she was going blind,
how even one of her doctors lied disdainfully,
keeping part of her diagnosis private.
Privacy is a kind of power, that must be obvious.
Who cares? one of my friends said.
I tell everyone everything about myself, she said.
And that’s when I knew she was the one
who told my secret.
I am baring to you my privacy
not by admitting all the shameful things I’ve done,
especially those when I thought
I was being moral, uncompromising, right.
The one man I heard speak about the power of transparency
caused so much suffering I shudder
when I hear his name.
Right now, by talking about privacy
I’m giving up the secret
of my great weakness, how much
privacy means to me,
although apparently it must not mean much
given that I’m not being private about it.
A woman moved closer to us because
she found my nephew attractive.
I’ve substituted other nouns and pronouns for the correct ones
in the above statement.
Today I’m wearing a big CONFIDENTIAL
sign around my neck.
I’ve lived long enough to know enough
to keep my mouth shut—I wrote down those words
so that I would forget them.
In the gallery the man said,
“I look at that painting of a barn
and I can just about smell the hay.”
And those strawberries and the lemons,
the rind on that lemon stripped,
the curl of it.
I see that and I can
just about smell the gin.
I’m thinking about light at dusk, last light
that brings on thoughts I battle with.
If I were more romantic
I’d say demons
except they’re bodiless.
The spread of sunshine
inside that onion
or the turrets inside the lemon
do not dim although hidden.
I put on a rind myself.
A still life is not still.
It is baring itself.
"Privacy" by Lee Upton. Used by permission of the poet.