Original poem reprinted online here: "Secret of Life" by Diana Der-Hovanessian
Originally read: January 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Diana Der-Hovanessian
I write, "The anaphora in this poem brings a mysterious enlightening quality to the poem because 'the secret of life' comes from a navy yard worker -- a forced perspective." So I disagree with my past self on one really big point -- past me forgetting the really big importance of the first line, "Once during the war"
So, there's a context to this poem -- yes, there's a forced perspective filtered through the speakers (advice from the re-imaginings of a navy yard worker); however, add on top of this context a time frame -- a time of war, which means there's a sense of urgency for the advice versus "peace time" advice, or rather, in a time of war there should be a sense of urgency.
However, the advice has a sense of the surreal along with humor. "The secret of life is money. / But only the small coins." I only wrote "most pointed insight" here. I don't know what past me meant. Current me thinks that a person shouldn't save but spend while you can (which I think is bad advice in itself personally). The anaphora of "the secret of life" brings a koanic sense to each line and, basically, the speaker could get away with most things that sounds like advice.
I find this one the most eh..., "The secret of life, he said, / is love. You become what you lose." I do think this works and is not overly sentimental because 1) the speaker refers back to the navy yard worker (hence, its a distant forced perspective advice not internal) and 2) there isn't any follow-up, rather the advice lingers.
The end of the poem becomes more focused and kind of spooky-like. I'm not entirely on board with the end with the whole -- if you sit down on a bus, you'll find him and he'll give you advice. However I do like what past me wrote at the end of the poem, "Who is the secret teller? Are we still looking for answers?"