The Secret – a poem by Denise Levertov

Every so often, I try to clean up my phone… I go through the photo gallery and delete all the stuff that takes up so much room that the ancient (by iPhone standards) artefact will stop making clunking sounds when it powers up… but for some reason, when I get to all the little screenshots of quotes and snatches of poems and juicy things I stumbled upon on instagram, I can’t delete them. I haven’t fully absorbed them yet. I probably never will, and yet, they remain, tantalizing clues. One day, I will read one and understand it fully and the secret will be revealed. I think that’s what I secretly hope. I heard someone speak of this poem this morning, as I was driving, and thought, oh, yes, that’s it exactly.


The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even
what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,
the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.
Denise Levertov, “The Secret” from O Taste and See: New Poems. Copyright © 1964 by Denise Levertov. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: O Taste and See: New Poems (1964)

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