For years I carried this poem with me in my wallet. I tore its page from Interview Magazine in the early 80s. Over time, the edges of the paper have become tattered, the fold creases deep and permanent, and the paper color yellowed a bit. A couple years ago, I had it framed, pressed and floating between two pieces of glass, and I hung it in the entryway of my home.
I've never been able to find the author.
This poem touches me with its simplicity and hope. I read it often and throughout the years I've found myself in different lines, but it’s in the truth of the last two lines that I find the strongest connection. As it has many times in the past, the poem soothes me this morning.
“You Must Always Tell…”
You must always tell the world what you’ve been through,
It does concern the curious who pass;
The stories of our hearts and of our dead
Can all improve our image in the glass.
I am a child who carefully picks her way
Here, or down there, or anywhere I stop
Tipping my had to twenty thousand truths,
Deep in a Now about to open up.
You must always tell the world just what you’ve learned;
It was not chance that took you where you went.
And when I search my pockets what I find
Is far more hope than I have ever spent.
You must always tell your secrets to the world,
Those passers-by whose business is the same;
And those from a land where all that’s holy’s dead
May not themselves be totally to blame.
You must always tell the world that you’ve been happy,
Loaded with talent, yes, a great success,
That you built beacons from brutality
And made your music from the pain of love.
We cannot both be ignorant and live
Let’s not just say we sheltered here a while
When one’s known death, and life–which is always there,
One tries to make a poem—and to smile…