A daily poem #340 – February 21, 2011

A poem
by C. K. Williams

The Gaffe


If that someone who’s me yet not me yet who judges me is always with me,
as he is, shouldn’t he have been there when I said so long ago that thing
I said?

If he who rakes me with such not trivial shame for minor sins now were
there then,
shouldn’t he have warned me he’d even now devastate me for my
unpardonable affront?

I’m a child then, yet already I’ve composed this conscience-beast, who
harries me:
is there anything else I can say with certainty about who I was, except that I,
that he,

could already draw from infinitesimal transgressions complex chords
of remorse,
and orchestrate ever-undiminishing retribution from the hapless rest
of myself?


The son of some friends of my parents has died, and my parents, paying
their call,
take me along, and I’m sent out with the dead boy’s brother and some
others to play.

We’re joking around, and words come to my mind, which to my
amazement are said.
How do you know when you can laugh when somebody dies, your brother dies?

is what’s said, and the others go quiet, the backyard goes quiet,
everyone stares,
and I want to know now why that someone in me who’s me yet not me let
me say it.

Shouldn’t he have told me the contrition cycle would from then be ever
upon me,
it didn’t matter that I’d really only wanted to know how grief ends,
and when?


I could hear the boy’s mother sobbing inside, then stopping, sobbing
then stopping.
Was the end of her grief already there? Had her someone in her told her
it would end?

Was her someone in her kinder to her, not tearing at her, as mine did,
still does, me,
for guessing grief someday ends? Is that why her sobbing stopped

She didn’t laugh, though, or I never heard her. How do you know when
you can laugh?
Why couldn’t someone have been there in me not just to accuse me, but
to explain?

The kids were playing again, I was playing, I didn’t hear anything more
from inside.
The way now sometimes what’s in me is silent, too, and sometimes,
though never really, forgets.

~ by Chris Hibbard on February 21, 2011.

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