Home > PRISM Online > Featured Poem: “My Parents Don’t Know” by Jonathan Ball | PRISM 56.2
Hidden Invisible Hiding Camouflage Hands Tree

While we await the latest issue of PRISM international to return from the printer, our poetry editor, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, shares a poem from the forthcoming issue, 56.2. Read “My Parents Don’t Know” by Jonathan Ball, just in time for the intrigue and revelry of family reunions over the brief holidays.


My Parents Don’t Know

Jonathan Ball

It upsets me that my friends know the real me,
but I have a hard time expressing who I am to my parents.
I have secret body piercings. I have secret tattoos.
I have secrets. My parents don’t know.

What are the secrets they keep? I think of all the things
that I don’t tell my parents, and then wonder what they don’t tell me.
My father frightens me. I’m just like him, and that makes it worse.
I don’t want to keep lying to my mother but she cannot know.

I hate upsetting my Dad. I hate myself sometimes.
I know he’d understand. But when I open my mouth I just choke.
My mother is so self-absorbed. She just isn’t rational.
She doesn’t listen. She’s so needy, it makes me afraid.

I had a child when I was twenty-two. My parents still don’t know.
My parents don’t know what I need. I want to be left alone,
but I also just want them to hold me. Sometimes I scream for them
to go away and once they do I hate them for leaving.

My Dad can read me like a book, but he still doesn’t know
that this book was not written for him. It’s different with my Mom,
but not in a good way. It’s hard to remember my parents are people.
I’m sick of hiding, but it’s the one thing I know.

My parents don’t know what they’re doing.
My parents don’t know where I am.
My parents love me and I love them too,
but they don’t know all the hells held inside.


Jonathan Ball holds a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature, film, and writing at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. He is the author of the poetry books Ex MachinaClockfire, and The Politics of Knives, the co-editor of Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Poetry, and the author of the academic monograph John Paizs’s Crime Wave. Visit him online at JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way.