"One secret thing happened
at the end of my mother's life, when I was
alone with her. I knew it should happen -
I knew someone was there, in there,
something less unlike my mother than
anything else on earth."
Probably during some ordinary task of the day this scene flashed into my mind's eye. Probably I tried to put it out of my mind - a troubling and moving scene - and then, on the third or fourth little jolt of visual memory, I thought, Wait. This isn't just obsession, this is a poem. Three things: 1 Should the first line have commas? When I read it (aloud or to myself), it doesn't go "One-secret-thing-happened," it goes "One, secret, thing, happened" - but commas would make it look a bit weird. 2 I felt surprised by the grammar of lines 5 and 6 when I saw it the next day, by the double meaning: who was in there was more like my mother than it was like anything else, and it was more like her than anything else was. For someone who has to cover both "nos" with fingertips to understand a double negative, this was something new. I think it happened out of the wish to honour the mysterious state of someone very near the end of their life. 3 When Ms magazine accepted "One Secret Thing" for publication, I felt how our secrets, our private lonely moments, are not just ours, everyone has them, and we can share them.