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The Bad Secret


72 pages / 5.50 x 9.00 inches / None


  Paperback / 9780807131398 / April 2006

The Bad Secret takes readers on a dark yet sometimes comic sojourn through the undercurrents of a life suddenly unmoored by grief, and then to the subsequent rise of the spirit to recovery. Tough-minded and intellectual, Judith Harris's poems are also distinguished by brilliant images close to metaphysical. They reflect on childhood, nature, mental and physical illness, the loss of a mother, and the levity of being simply human. In a voice entirely her own, Harris confronts life's secrets with their hidden meanings inspired by guilt and redemption, offering a music of tenderness and hope. 

I watch it gutter down, over the pine’s edge,
over the pink and orange sunset,
diving into the abyss,
with its wings perpendicular to the ravine.
By now, I have broken off
from the rest, pretending I’m an orphan—
my eyes fixed on the unseeable destruction
of my ghost in that suicidal machine. 
“Hush,” I say, as if hatred was a sound,
as if I could make the negative positive, 
but nature itself has given up on the picture 
of my happy family, 
and pretends not to look 
at the box with the rolled-up Kodak film
tumbling over the ledge
gathering more weight and velocity.
—“My Father Throws His Camera Down the Grand Canyon, 1968”

Judith Harris is the author of the poetry collection Atonement and the critical work Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing. She teaches creative writing, literature, and psychoanalytic theory at Catholic University and George Mason University and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter.

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