Please Don’t Read This Poem: A Poetry Activity Using Invisible Ink

There’s nothing so exciting as a secret!  That’s why private messages written on folded paper, passed to friends who you know will keep your secret, are so thrilling… There’s a chance the note might get intercepted, and the information will get leaked!

This is a secret note

The following poem is about a poem that nobody is supposed to read. It’s a secret, but not a very good one, because everyone keeps reading it, even when the author asks them to stop!

Please Don’t Read This Poem

Please don’t read this poem.
It’s only meant for me.
That’s it. Just move along now.
There’s nothing here to see.

Besides, I’m sure you’d rather
just go outside and play.
So put the poem down now
and slowly back away.

Hey, why are you still reading?
That isn’t very nice.
I’ve asked you once politely.
Don’t make me ask you twice.

I’m telling you, it’s private.
Do not read one more line.
Hey! That’s one more. Now stop it.
This isn’t yours; it’s mine.

You’re not allowed to read this.
You really have to stop.
If you don’t quit this instant,
I swear I’ll call a cop.

He’ll drag you off in handcuffs.
He’ll lock you up in jail,
and leave you there forever
until you’re old and frail.

Your friends will all forget you.
You won’t be even missed.
Your family, too, will likely
forget that you exist.

And all because you read this
instead of having fun.
It’s too late now, amigo;
the poem’s nearly done.

There’s only one solution.
Here’s what you’ll have to do:
Tell all your friends and family
they shouldn’t read it too.

–Kenn Nesbitt

Now, imagine how things would be different if the poem had been written in invisible ink.  Then the secret would stay a secret unless someone knew how to make the ink magically reappear!

Do you have a secret you’d like to share only with your mom, dad, teacher, or best buddy? Why not write in a secret code (a poem could be a secret code), in invisible ink?

Lemon juice and brush

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • paint brush or cotton swabs
  • lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • a cup (for the juice)
  • a sheet of paper

For decoding:

  • a bright desk lamp, hair dryer, or warm sunlight

First, think of a secret poem that you want to share with someone you trust.  Write it down on a sheet of scrap paper, just so you have it exactly how you want it before you get started.

Writing a message with invisible ink

Next, using a brush or swab dipped into the lemon juice (invisible ink), write your poem on a sheet of plain white paper.  Allow the lemon juice to dry naturally before passing the note to its recipient.

For the decoding step, there are several options:

  1. Desk Lamp:  Turn on your bright desk lamp and angle it down to about an inch from the paper. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t get too hot, but be careful of the lamp edges, as they may burn your skin after the bulb heats up.  After a few minutes, you should start to see the invisible ink turning brown as the acid in the lemon juice heats.
  1. Hair Dryer:  This option is loud, but quick.  Turn the hair dryer on to a high heat setting.  Hold the paper against a flat surface and blow dry until the ink turns brown.
  1. Sunlight:  This method takes the longest, but it’s safe and quiet.  Simply leave the note inside a window that has bright sunlight streaming through.  After an hour or two, the message will be revealed!

Decoding invisible ink secret message

If you are in a classroom, you could play another game with this invisible spy ink!  Have the students transcribe one section of the poem “Please Don’t Read This Poem” in invisible ink on a small sheet of paper.  Then, have the students try to put the poem together while the ink is still invisible, using only their memory of the poem and their own part.  Then, warm the papers in the order in which the students arranged them to see how close they came!