The Secret is Out, poetry by Jo Curtain at

The Secret is Out

The Secret is Out

written by: Jo Curtain


my sister, who I didn’t know, hands me a photo of our mother in a nineteen-sixties summer dress,
vintage retro-cool.
our mother is our mirror,
hazel eyes, high cheekbones, dark hair,
our stomachs chain-stitched from childbirth.
I say, ‘she looks happy,’
my sister’s closed face veils her emotions like flower buds at dusk.
then I look again. our mother newly arrived in Australia,
pregnant, unmarried unknown
I realised the inadequacy of my response to my sister I didn’t know.

my sister and I biologically linked forty years separated, meeting at our mother’s grave for the first time.
do I want to hurt my sister?
her face strangely afflicted, feelings beyond the reach of words.

I longed for a sister to share the biological dysfunction from which I was stitched—yet
I turn away and escape to the bathroom seeking refuge from the inexplicable tear in the lining that joins siblings.

thinking of our mother, her secrets taken to the grave, I want her to know she could have shared them with me.
yet I know secrets are hard to let go
I look at the inherited features in the mirror. I see the aging face and feel her presence, not a ghost always with me.

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