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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).