Poetry about Secrets, Hidden Places?
May 11, 2007 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Poetry about secrets, hidden things, hiding places?

Lately, I've been making hollow books for gifts. I'd like to paste poems that deal with secrets, hiding places, and the like into the back of the hollowed out section for decoration. Any recommendations for some cool lines? Thanks.
posted by Staggering Jack to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

~Robert Frost
posted by iconomy at 7:26 PM on May 11, 2007

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:31 PM on May 11, 2007

Sylvia Plath says,


Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
posted by santojulieta at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2007

If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

Naomi Shihab Nye
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 PM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.
I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine,
in my camouflage rooms.

~Carol Anne Duffy
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2007

From our hidden places
By a secret path,
We come in the moonlight
To the side of the green rath.

~Seumas O'Sullivan
posted by iconomy at 7:46 PM on May 11, 2007

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Song of Songs 2.14
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:48 PM on May 11, 2007

THE RETICENT volcano keeps
His never slumbering plan;
Confided are his projects pink
To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale
Jehovah told to her,
Can human nature not survive
Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips
Let every babbler be.
The only secret people keep
Is Immortality.

Emily Dickenson
posted by Methylviolet at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2007

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,
And you're too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there's none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today's a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to everyone who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro' my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro' my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring's an expansive time: yet I don't trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro' the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there's not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.

Christina Rossetti, "Winter: My Secret"
posted by thomas j wise at 8:18 PM on May 11, 2007

And yet the vulgar call the sphere first full
Up to the visible height--and after, void;
Not knowing air's more hidden properties.

-Robert Browning, Cleon.

Oh hide the God still more! and make us see
Such as Lucretius drew, a god like thee:
Wrapp'd up in self, a god without a thought,
Regardless of our merit or default.

-Alexander Pope, Dunciad

Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise,
Where mix'd with God's, his lov'd idea lies: [...]

-Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard

Stand you a while aloof, Cesario,
Thou know'st no less but all; I have unclasp'd
To thee the book even of my secret soul:
Therefore, good youth, address thy gait unto her;
Be not denied access, stand at her doors,
And tell them, there thy fixed foot shall grow
Till thou have audience.

--Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene IV (emphasis is obviously mine)
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:21 PM on May 11, 2007

I am the boy
That can enjoy

--James Joyce, Ulysses

Use it for a small one :)
posted by crinklebat at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2007

You can search at bartleby.com. Try searches for "secret", "hidden", "concealed" etc; you can also search by author for some major poets.

Here's Yeats' To the Secret Rose.

But really, for short poems about secrets and hidden things, Emily Dickinson is your lady. Here are just a few. (I'm marking the division between poems with " ---")

THE SUBURBS of a secret
A strategist should keep,
Better than on a dream intrude
To scrutinize the sleep.


HIS mind, of man a secret makes,
I meet him with a start,
He carries a circumference
In which I have no part,
Or even if I deem I do—
He otherwise may know.
Impregnable to inquest,
However neighborly.


SO, from the mould,
Scarlet and gold
Many a Bulb will rise,
Hidden away cunningly
From sagacious eyes.
So, from cocoon
Many a Worm
Leap so Highland gay,
Peasants like me—
Peasants like thee,
Gaze perplexedly.


THE SKIES can’t keep their secret!
They tell it to the hills—
The hills just tell the orchards—
And they the daffodils!

A bird, by chance, that goes that way
Soft overheard the whole.
If I should bribe the little bird,
Who knows but she would tell?


SO bashful when I spied her,
So pretty, so ashamed!
So hidden in her leaflets,
Lest anybody find;

So breathless till I passed her,
So helpless when I turned
And bore her, struggling, blushing,
Her simple haunts beyond!

For whom I robbed the dingle,
For whom betrayed the dell,
Many will doubtless ask me,
But I shall never tell!


A LADY red upon the hill
Her annual secret keeps;
A lady white within the field
In placid lily sleeps!

The tidy breezes with their brooms
Sweep vail, and hill, and tree!
Prithee, my pretty housewives!
Who may expected be?

The neighbors do not yet suspect!
The woods exchange a smile,—
Orchard, and buttercup, and bird,
In such a little while!

And yet how still the landscape stands,
How nonchalant the wood,
As if the resurrection
Were nothing very odd!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:14 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ok - a few more from Emily:

I NEVER told the buried gold
Upon the hill that lies,
I saw the sun, his plunder done,
Crouch low to guard his prize.

He stood as near, as stood you here,
A pace had been between—
Did but a snake bisect the brake,
My life had forfeit been.

That was a wondrous booty,
I hope ’t was honest gained—
Those were the finest ingots
That ever kissed the spade.

Whether to keep the secret—
Whether to reveal—
Whether, while I ponder
Kidd may sudden sail—

Could a Shrewd advise me
We might e’en divide—
Should a Shrewd betray me—
“Atropos” decide!


DUST is the only secret,
Death the only one
You cannot find out all about
In his native town:
Nobody knew his father,
Never was a boy,
Hadn’t any playmates
Or early history.
Industrious, laconic,
Punctual, sedate,
Bolder than a Brigand,
Swifter than a Fleet,
Builds like a bird too,
Christ robs the next—
Robin after robin
Smuggled to rest!


THE RETICENT volcano keeps
His never slumbering plan;
Confided are his projects pink
To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale
Jehovah told to her,
Can human nature not survive
Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips
Let every babbler be.
The only secret people keep
Is Immortality.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:24 PM on May 11, 2007

I remember this one from when I was a kid.

I like to see a thing I know has not been seen before.
That's why I cut my apple through to look into the core.
It's nice to think though many an eye has seen its ruddy skin
Mine are the very first to spy the five brown pips within.

I have no idea who wrote it, and it's horrid doggerel but it fits the brief!
posted by essexjan at 10:39 PM on May 11, 2007

Gacela del amor imprevisto

No one understood the fragrance
of the dark magnolia of your womb.
No one knew you tortured
a hummingbid of love between your teeth.

A thousand persian ponies slept
in the moonlit plaza of your forehead,
while through four nights I snared
your waist, the enemy of snow.

Between plaster and jasmines, your glance
was a pale branch of seeds.
I searched my breast to give you
the ivory letters that spell always,

always, always: garden of my ache,
your body elusive always,
blood of your veins in my mouth,
your mouth already lightless for my death.

--F. G. Lorca
posted by flotson at 11:06 PM on May 11, 2007

Well, this strays slightly, but I'll add Anne Carson's translation of Sappho's famous jealousy poem. [Warning: Oversimplification] It's about having to hold your mouth in the presence of the person you love and that person's lover/betrothed/husband/special ladyfriend. I got it from this page, which is nothing but translations of this one poem (and the fragment of the original that remains). Anne Carson is a great poet, herself, by the by. Anyway, here's the poem:

He seems to me equal to the gods that man
whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
     to your sweet speaking

and lovely laughing — oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
     is left in me

no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
     fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead — or almost
     I seem to me.

But all is to be dared, because even a person of poverty . . .
posted by Kattullus at 11:12 PM on May 11, 2007

Response by poster: I was going to try to express my gratitude in verse but I think it's better if I just say you guys are bloody brilliant. Thanks!
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:45 PM on May 11, 2007

O Book, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of wordy joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy pages destroy.

-apologies to Wm. Blake
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:11 AM on May 12, 2007

The Secret (Denise Levertov)

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.
posted by Firas at 5:26 AM on May 12, 2007

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