Vox Populi

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Maryfrances Wagner: Prompt

I ask my students to write a secret
on a slip of paper.  Anything someone

might consider a secret. We’ll get
ideas for your next story.  

Stacey tilts her head to think.
Brandon looks down at his desk.  

Here is a box, I say, to put them in. 
Can we make some up? Of course. 

I expect you to make them up.   
Can it be someone else’s secret?  

Yes. Here is my secret.  
I fold and toss it in the box.  

Will it still be a secret if we
write a real one?  Perhaps. 

Someone might guess
which are true.  Do we
have to read our own?  No.  
The box becomes a folded flurry.
You can add more tomorrow.  
What if we want to tell a real secret?  
Fine.  Don’t tell me if your secret’s true. 
I’d be obligated to tell.  

Can we read a few today?  Yes.  
My mother is really my sister. 

My cousin’s in prison, not away at college.  
I am not a citizen.  

My dad is cheating on my mom.
My mom’s boyfriend raped my sister.  

That’s enough for today. 

Maryfrances Wagner, a retired high school English teacher, is the state of Missouri's sixth poet laureate. Her collections of poetry include The Immigrants' New Camera (Spartan Press, 2018).
Source: Start School Now

4 comments on “Maryfrances Wagner: Prompt

  1. maryfranceswagner
    April 27, 2022

    Thanks to all of you who related to this poem in some way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vox Populi
    April 27, 2022

    For many years I taught at the Community College of Allegheny County and I had many students from impoverished or struggling families. The poem struck me hard, bringing up memories of those students.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. kim4true
    April 27, 2022

    Every freshman class. Some are true. That’s the hard part–loving those hurt ones from afar and hoping they find their way to healing soon–maybe through learning to string words together, to string thoughts together on a page.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. melpacker
    April 27, 2022

    The lives of ordinary people are never ordinary.

    Liked by 2 people

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