Secrets Poetry: Unforgivable

We're launching Secrets, our 22nd issue, on October 21, 2016. Leading up to the launch, we're publishing a series of poetry & prose pieces that feature unconventional lives and secret histories.

Illustration: "Guilty Conscience" by Chelsea O'Byrne

Illustration: "Guilty Conscience" by Chelsea O'Byrne

By Meaghan Rondeau

When I was 26, my parents had my siblings and me sit down
in the living room and Dad told us we had a 22-year-old half sister



Her mom, Bonnie, had gone to law school with my parents
Then, for a while, Bonnie and my mom had worked in the same small town

She and your mother were friends, my dad said
We were best friends, my mom said, interrupting the smooth flow of the narrative
that he seemed to have been rehearsing for over two decades


Because she and my mom were some sort of friends
and my mom worked full time,

Bonnie often babysat me and my brother when we were little

Of course, the child care arrangements suited my dad’s purposes as well


A stretch of time, maybe a year, maybe longer, it doesn’t matter,
elapsed between the day the baby was born

and the day my mom learned, or perhaps realized, who Bonnie’s daughter’s father was


During that time, I’d met the baby,
played with her, held her

Chances are practically 100% that we appeared together in photos, but





The problem I have when I try to write certain stories
is that they break my self in half

Even though I know I was born to smash
all the silence out of them,

I also feel

that they’re unworthy of the privilege of being art
that they deserve none of the kind favours that language can do
that beauty is not always truth
that there are times when telling it slant is a copout, a version
of hiding



Bonnie made it impossible for you to see her, my mom said
Your mother made it impossible for her to see you, Bonnie later wrote to me

We can all agree on impossible


Tell me her last name, I said to my dad

Having all but abandoned her before she’d finished elementary school,
he did so with reluctance, adding

I'd prefer that you not contact her

I contacted her


She’d known about me all along, she’d been waiting



It turned out we had a ton of things in common
The trivial ones weighed heaviest

She sent some photos
We looked a lot alike, I mean we looked like


I will never pursue legitimacy as a writer
because I know it’s meaningless, an accident, nothing personal, nothing

to do with the spurious
question of what one “deserves”
or has “earned”



Somewhere along the course of our correspondence,
before she stopped writing back,

she told me she still has a teddy bear that I picked out for her shortly after she was born



One of the many things that irrationally haunt me is that I don’t remember the time
my mom took me shopping to choose a gift for Bonnie’s baby



One morning a few years ago while walking to work
I found myself caught up in one of those inner interviews where your mind lobs seemingly
random questions at you like

Describe yourself in one word



Meaghan Rondeau was born in Saskatchewan long, long ago. She studied classics and philosophy in Calgary and Seattle, abandoned a PhD in 2007, and is now, uh, “halfway” through an MFA at UBC. She writes poetry, nonfiction, plays, and satire, and translates Greek and Latin poems in a shamelessly liberal manner. Recent stuff of hers can be found in Room, Plenitude, and The Minola Review, and on her website

Chelsea O'Byrne is a Vancouver based illustrator. Her work explores themes of  childhood, relationships, nature, and the human mind. You can find her online at or

Psst! Our Secrets Issue launch party is happening October 21st at the Orpheum Annex. Join us for performances by Mu, Ora Cogan, and Pale Red. Event details right here. You can find another stunning poem by Meaghan Rondeau in our print issue. You can also catch her reading as part of our SAD Spells event series during the Vancouver Art/Book Fair.


SAD Mag is an independent Vancouver publication featuring stories, art and design. Founded in 2009, we publish the best of contemporary and emerging artists with a focus on inclusivity of voices and views, exceptional design, and film photography.