A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you.” – Roald Dahl
I was on the phone with a coaching client one day. She was talking about ideas—where they come from, where they go. She was also talking about Truth, in the capital “T’ sense, i.e., what we know in our heart that transcends conditioning and societal expectation.
I was reminded, as she talked, of a children’s book on Pearl’s shelf, one I’ve always loved. It’s called Before You Were Born, by Howard Schwartz (no relation). In the book, an angel named Laila (Hebrew for “night”) whispers to an unborn child: all the things she knows but will forget upon being born. At the moment of birth, Lailah places a finger to the baby’s lips, in a beautiful hushing gesture, and this, the story goes, is how we got the indentation between our nose and mouth. Over the course of a lifetime, we will remember all of the things we forgot from that Book of Secrets, gradually recovering our memory of who we are. And of what is True.
I find this to be such a comforting notion, that if we listen carefully, we can remember things we knew before we were born.
Your Writing Prompt: Tell me about the Book of Secrets. You might want to begin today’s freewrite with these words: “In the Book of Secrets…” If you get stuck, just return to that phrase and keep writing. The prompt is just a doorway. Where it leads is up to you.
Here is poem of mine that came from this prompt:
The Book of Secrets
In the Book of Secrets, you will know how unfathomable my love for you was from so long before you were born. How it never began and it will never end. How I knew you from the time I had consciousness, carried you inside of me from my own conception, and how surely my own mother knew me in this way and so we have both been here and together forever.
In the Book of Secrets, you will know that becoming who you really are will take unfathomable courage. You will not want to do it. You will thrash and you will direct your thrashing at me. You will rage and you will storm and you will rest and you will rise. And you will always know, deep down, that you are safe. This is my wish, yes. And in the Book of Secrets, it is so.
In the Book of Secrets, there are unfathomable reasons for all of the experiences that have been traumatic. Trauma to the body, to the tiny person’s body that should only be joyful and fed and loved and bathed. To the body, the adult grown-person body that began rejecting sustenance and the very air it breathed. Trauma of loss upon loss, of severed friendships and searing loneliness. In the Book of Secrets, God finds you and you can’t not answer, and in this way, you heal and spread healing to all those who come to you.
In the Book of Secrets, my eyes crinkle and sparkle as they did when I was a baby. It is mid-January, and I am just born. A grey day, at least that’s how I imagine it, since what other kinds of days are there in January in Buffalo on the shores of Lake Erie? In the Book of Secrets, I am born to two parents and two sisters and a childhood I won’t remember. I am in the middle now, which of course is anyone’s guess. But in the Book of Secrets, my eyes never change, so you can find me everywhere you go and everywhere I go and we will never be apart.
In the Book of Secrets, night comes and the deep blue with it. I touch my children’s faces and take my wife’s hand, and as long as I am here, they will have all of me. That’s no secret.
In the Book of Secrets, many poems wait to be written. I speak every language fluently and even animals whisper to me in dreams. In the Book of Secrets, the Holy Ones and the Righteous Ones and the Seekers and the Healers all come together because they were never apart. There is a hush here unlike any you’ve ever heard. And if you listen very, very closely, a message for you alone.
You may post your poem in the comments section below if you want to.
Copyright 2021 Jena Schwartz