Oct 09

Secret Lies

Try this writing exercise from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: Take a poetry book (or look online). Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there. Every time you get stuck, just rewrite your line and keep going.

My attempt is from Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman.

i will always keep secrets by donata ramonalte

i will always keep secrets by donata ramonalte

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. In my hips, my well-rounded hips that made way for six screaming babies coming into life. In my rapidly graying hair, each strand a testament to one of life’s experiences. I don’t know, where do I want to go with this? I have these feelings of resistance, knowing that I’m going to put it out there. Do I keep secrets? Yes, I do. I keep them from my husband, from my readers, from myself. Not just one secret. The secret of the beautiful places that I keep within myself. A languid pond of clear blue water, undisturbed, secrets lying at the bottom. A field of yellow daisies stretched as far as the eye can see, tall blades of grass parting as I walk through them. A dark forest with a night owl calling hoot, hoot, hoot, into the night. Kind of creepy to some, perhaps, but not to me. It’s almost a welcoming sound, inviting me deeper into dark places, because I am friends with dark places. They frighten most, I think, especially people who demand never to leave the sunlight. How can you see in all that light? How can you not wither?

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. Painted ladies, trim and fit, or are they? I don’t know. They just are and who is to say what is pretty? Is pretty enough? I don’t think so. I want to be more than pretty, but where is that beauty?

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. Does my secret lie? My secret lies. My secret lies about who I am and what’s important to me. It lies about letting people see me. I don’t like this one at all. What is going on here? I am about to reveal my secret, and my inner editor is screaming bloody murder. No! No! No! You can not reveal secrets! They are a secret for a reason, mind you, a damn good reason. Stop trying to reveal secrets. Of course you’re having a hard time with this one, it’s because it’s taking you somewhere way too deep and way too secret. So your secret lies, it tries to lie, it tries to give you something socially acceptable to put on the page so that people will not see. They can not see, because what? What will happen when pretty women discover my secret lies? My lying secrets? What will they see? What are the consequences? What do you fear? Repercussions, a different me, but really, why can’t I share the real me anyway? I want to, I think I want to, I think that’s why I write. I write. I write. I write. Silly inner editor, I spill onto the page. All of me, my secrets and my lies. You just have to know what to look for. And so I side step the assignment and I don’t write any secrets and I don’t write any lies I just write an write and write and just writing is so delightful and it makes my hungry soul smile.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. Does that mean that men already know? Or do they simply not care? Maybe all women are a secret to them.

I chose a powerful poem, and it shows that I am not a powerful woman. I have wilted under the weight of it. I don’t care for pretty women. They haven’t intimidated me into cowering. It’s the secrets and the lies that have won. My secrets and my lies will have to stay where they are, hidden for now. Because I panicked, and I didn’t really expose them. But I’ll come back and do this again. Let it brew. Let it incubate. Let it come. I will sit down and let it come. Tomorrow. Inner editor, you are on warning.

~ ~ ~

OK, that was very uncomfortable for me! But I kept going, even when I felt completely stuck. Give it a try. You might surprise yourself. And I hope you do better than I did! Link to your efforts in the comments, or just tell me what one of your favorite poems is.


  1. Joan Harrington (@joantruesuccess)

    Hi Shelli,

    Enjoyed your post 🙂 Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Thank you, Joan!

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