A reckless promise made
To someone I barely knew
An obvious mistake the second they
Decided it was time to make good
On something said in jest
The time a good friend
Sat me down to make me learn
A life lesson I would have walked
Naked through the desert
To avoid ever knowing
The time I decided it was my duty
To leave things in a better condition
By attempting to explain a toxic
To the deliberately deaf
The times I took jobs I knew would be awful
Because I couldn't let myself believe
There would be anything better around the corner
The times I stayed in them
The times I turned the other cheek
The one time I was naïve enough
To stand up for myself
Only to be shot down
In a vicious character assassination
By someone I trusted not to abuse their position of power
The time I was attacked in the street
For being in the wrong place at the wrong time
And observing some nefarious activity
In which I had less than zero interest
Following a truly lousy evening
The times I was groped on the bus
And couldn't bring myself
To make a loud scene
Cursing myself for cowardice
As much as the perpetrator
The times I listened to my detractors
More than my supporters (always, sorry).
Most of them live in my head
It gets hard to avoid their commentary
The time I tried to explain my surprise
At the coloured anatomy of cats
Over board games, while tipsy
Offending my best friend's husband
So badly he refused to visit for seven months
The time I let my conscience overrule social norms
The time I spoke the unfiltered truth
Without thinking, sleep deprived
Beyond the wit of my audience
And suffered for it
The time I dropped my phone in the street
But failed to hang up on the grandmother
Who never forgave me
A single lapse in a public setting
The time I couldn’t help my father, dying of a heart attack
Because I was half-way to a funeral for another relative
At the other end of the country
He still whispers to me of his disappointment
Late at night when I can't sleep.
I am sorry, dad. I tried.
Nothing I did or did not do
Would ever have been good enough
In that moment
Made for regret
The time I believed a loved one’s lies
More fool me
Twice, three times, staying
Until I told myself it was the right moment
To walk away
The time I couldn’t believe
Someone's personal truth
Despite understanding all the small ways
In which we are blinkered
By our own experiences
For once I found it hard to see
Through someone else's eyes
And tried to fill in the blanks
Meaning two plus two
Made minus five
The time I blurted out a correction
And ruined a first impression
In front of strangers
Because my inner perfectionist
Refused to suffer a lie
The million times I could not bring myself to say no
For fear of hurting the feelings
Of someone who lacked the same consideration
For my own
Assuming they were my equal
The time I called the police because my neighbour
Was being beaten by her partner
The time the despatcher didn't care
And I did not challenge their callous response
Because I was too concerned that help arrive quickly
The times I have swallowed my pride, my words,
Bottled up my feelings, ignoring the knots
In my gut at the wrongness of what I knew
I was about to sacrifice - my dignity
My sense of self
All these times call to me on repeat
Those grey days when I am feeling
'Lower than a snake's ass'
As my other grandma used to say
Rudderless, unworthy of love
And now, at almost forty
What is all this worth, this much regret?
We live and learn
Perhaps the real problem is
I do not know the answer yet.
Put your shoes to one side,
Open your eyes
Then remove the blindfold
Really open them
What can you see?
Is it a pretty picture
One you would hang
On a bedroom wall
To gaze upon
Each broken dawn
Or one you would bury
Deep in an album
Kept in a box
Under the bed
Dusty with disuse
Only to see the light
When grandkids visit
At some idyllic future time
Of tolerance and teaching
That is yet to come
And may never happen?
Truth be told
It doesn’t matter.
Whatever your vantage point
Gender, skin tone, genetics,
You see things
As you see yourself
And feel excluded
From any grouping
You view as ‘other’.
This is life
(Or something like it)
Will not match
That of those ‘others’
Nor theirs, yours.
We are all different
And empathy is not
That certain knowledge
Of the unknown,
Could be our strength
But differences also
One from the ‘other’.
Those who would understand
Take it further
Try to get closer
To forbidden wisdom
Fail in their attempt
We cannot truly
Plato’s cave all over again
Nothing but shadows
Elusive and unfeeling.
We are not all filled
With benign curiosity
For those whose world view
Does not admit equality
It only ends in tears,
So what do we make of it
This unfathomable ‘otherness’?
Racism, misogyny, xenophobia
Fear of the unknown
Embarrassment and even
The persistent among us
Keep picking at scabs
So old wounds fester
To the point of eruption
Irritated by irrational isolationists
To the bitter iron
Of bad blood
Drawing down ire like
Hera in her lousy marriage
Detracting from the culpable
To the scapegoat.
Bringing forth bolts
Of heavenly fire
Down upon us
All mere mortals
And still we stand divided
Our own ugliness comes to the fore
Competing for each burden
Losing face and patience
Fraying, unhappy peace
As we ignore our ignorance
Setting aside compassion
For righteous bigotry
Small-minded acts of defiance
Banner waving, street fighting.
Too bloody right!
Magic and mystery, people do say
Cannot be ‘stood in a year and a day
For reason is hardly a weapon that’s fit
To dig a deep hole – reach the bottom of it.
So first you must study some musty old tomes,
Learn spells without cause, try to rattle the bones.
A sortilege-seeker next you will become
With the bang of a gong and a meditate-hum.
You’ll start to see spirits, and hear things at night.
Some voices bring comfort, yet others, a fright.
But never again will you fancy yourself
To be home all alone with the books on the shelf.
And if it’s a mastery that you would seek,
Hear ye this now, heed the warning I speak!
For Pandora, though ever a curious piece
Once open’d, found never again would know peace.
Her conjuror’s box, though enticing at first
Then took on the weight of a burden, a curse.
But knowledge is power, I hear you declaim,
Please listen, sit down while I try to explain.
Once started upon the path you would rush down
It will not be possible to turn around
So be very sure that you’ve made up your mind
Or you may not enjoy what it is that you find.
When I was but a little lamb
I rarely pondered why I am.
And yet as now my whiskers grow
I wonder, do I want to know?
Philosophers do quite a bit
Of reasoning on this subject…
Perhaps it’s better left alone
The answer to me’s an unknown.
We humans are a curious lot
And choose to prod more oft than not
At puzzles plagueing to our mind
Not fearing what we seek to find
And rarely pausing in our quest
To ask if knowing why is best?
Some things are meant as mystery
Still others, such as we can’t see
Or comprehend, though try we might
To find solutions to our plight.
Yet knowing not as I do now
Is lesser agony somehow
Than understanding finally
What little point there is to me.