I am a secret,
goes the infant at the breast.
I am a secret

goes the child standing
apart on the edge of the
schoolyard at recess.

I am a secret,
goes the young man gazing at
guns in the window.

I’ll keep our secret,
goes the mother, the school, the
man at the counter.

There is no secret.
We secrete evil, sticky
with it, wake screaming.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

4 thoughts on “Scream”

  1. Love this one, Tom. Hard not to have Szymborska’s poem come to mind:

    And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
    That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers’ little boy!
    Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
    Or a tenor in Vienna’s Opera House?
    Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
    Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know:
    printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?
    Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
    To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
    maybe to the Burgermeister’s daughter?

    Precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honey bun,
    while he was being born a year ago,
    there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
    spring sun, geraniums in windows,
    the organ-grinder’s music in the yard,
    a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
    then just before the labor his mother’s fateful dream:
    a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
    if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
    Knock knock, who’s there, it’s Adolf’s heartchen knocking.

    A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
    our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
    looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
    like the tots in every other family album.
    Shush, let’s not start crying, sugar,
    the camera will click from under that black hood.

    The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunen,
    and Braunen is a small but worthy town,
    honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
    smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
    No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps.
    A history teacher loosens his collar
    and yawns over homework.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This poem is like a diamond, highly compressed and cut to perfection, although it does not refract a rainbow. It’s also like nuclear fusion, the wet dream fused to the nightmare in the last stanza, the beginning wedded to the end, the bomb goes off, the horror. The arc of the narrative, the phases of civilizing development, family, school, marketplace, the progression of evil and its method of subterfuge and collusion. Reminds me in its scope of idea and pinpoint conciseness of structure of Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” The poem begins with the sentimental image of baby at breast, although the secret sets a note of something else coming. We wonder what. Then the edge of the schoolyard, then the window of the gun store. The no secret coupled with the word secrete sets up for the final image of horror, the wet dream that begins the narrative wedded to the nightmare that concludes it. That’s an amazing feat, that coupling with all it implies.

    I could get into a whole essay on this poem. Here are some of the angles in: Dante’s Inferno, Freud’s eros/thanatos, the Trump/America tragedy. As I’ve been thinking about this poem for a few days and reviewing the circles of hell that it reminded me of, I realized, among other things, that both MacBeth, Hamlet, and Othello all start at the last circle of hell, the various treacheries. Your poem starts with the implication of lust and descends to the implication of violence. Although there’s more to consider regarding the business of collusion and subterfuge.

    Your poem is quite the provoker!!! It upends a lot. I’m reminded of Northrop Frye who said that at the very nadir of the antiheroic mode we meet the “Prince of Darkness, bottom side up.”

    Onward and upward!


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