In her own words...
On one of those birthdays of which I’ve had so many
I was walking home through the park from a party,
pleased with myself for not mentioning the birthday —
why hear congratulations for doing nothing but live?
The birthday was my secret with myself and gave me,
walking under all those trees, such a strong feeling of
satisfaction that everything else fell away: party sounds,
the hostess who stared and as suddenly disappeared
on seeing her husband walk in with a young(er) friend;
another guest examining garment labels in the room
where I went to leave my jacket; one of two waiters
balancing a trayful of foot-high champagne glasses;
a bee-like buzz of voices I ought to have enjoyed
but heard as foreign babble, so remote it was from
a birthday, so empty of import nothing would remain.
I got my jacket, waved from the hall, pressed Down.
In summer the park, for an hour or so before night,
is at its greenest, a whole implicit proposition
of green leaves, a triumph of leaves enfolding me
that day in a green intimacy so trustworthy I told
them my secret. “It’s my birthday,” I said out loud
before turning away to cross the avenue.
About this work
"Secret" was first published in The New Yorker, September 2, 2002, p. 116. It is also included in Dorothea Tanning's book, A Table of Content: Poems, New York: Graywolf Press, 2004, p. 57, and may not be reprinted without the publisher's permission.