My apologies to everything
One poem reminded me of another poem and now this is where we are. Forgive me.
I hope you’ll forgive me if I repeat myself. I hope I’ll forgive me too. I need you to see this poem again, or maybe for the first time.
by Dilruba Ahmed
For leaving the fridge open
last night, I forgive you.
For conjuring white curtains
instead of living your life.
For the seedlings that wilt, now,
in tiny pots, I forgive you.
For saying no first
but yes as an afterthought.
I forgive you for hideous visions
after childbirth, brought on by loss
of sleep. And when the baby woke
repeatedly, for your silent rebuke
in the dark, “What’s your beef?”
I forgive your letting vines
overtake the garden. For fearing
your own propensity to love.
For losing, again, your bag
en route from San Francisco;
for the equally heedless drive back
on the caffeine-fueled return.
I forgive you for leaving
windows open in rain
and soaking library books
again. For putting forth
only revisions of yourself,
with punctuation worked over,
instead of the disordered truth,
I forgive you. For singing mostly
when the shower drowns
your voice. For so admiring
the drummer you failed to hear
the drum. In forgotten tin cans,
may forgiveness gather. Pooling
in gutters. Gushing from pipes.
A great steady rain of olives
from branches, relieved
of cruelty and petty meanness.
With it, a flurry of wings, thirteen
gray pigeons. Ointment reserved
for healers and prophets. I forgive you.
I forgive you. For feeling awkward
and nervous without reason.
For bearing Keats’s empty vessel
with such calm you worried
you had, perhaps, no moral
center at all. For treating your mother
with contempt when she deserved
compassion. I forgive you. I forgive
you. I forgive you. For growing
a capacity for love that is great
but matched only, perhaps,
by your loneliness. For being unable
to forgive yourself first so you
could then forgive others and
at last find a way to become
the love that you want in this world.
I shared it over a year ago, early into doing whatever it is I’m doing here (sharing what I love and learn, for no reason but I love to). Along with it, I offered a suggestion, or I suppose a prompt, which if I’m being honest—and I’d like to, isn’t that the point?—was more me talking to myself than anything, like most of what I say and write, which maybe you know if you’ve spent a little time around me, in which case I’m sorry about how I talk to myself so much and say which all the time, and probably I miss you, and thank you for being patient with me during this difficult time between birth and death.
Anyway this was the prompt:
You might consider writing for a while, first making a list of the many things you’d like to forgive in yourself. And when you are done you might write you a poem, or a prayer, or a letter, forgiving you for all of it.
In the grand tradition of billions of know-it-alls who have come before, I have a tendency to issue advice I don’t always follow myself.
And because I was reminded of this poem the other night and, inevitably, by extension this prompt,
and because I am the type of person who believes—as I believe you might know by now or at least have guessed—that the lesson will repeat itself until it is learned, compelling me to interpret this reminder as an invitation to do for once and hopefully more often what I would implore others to do,
and because I am more regularly these days in the mood to write everything down,
I set a timer for 30 minutes and sat down to list what I’d like to forgive in me, so I might learn to actually do it and let that burden go and with a little luck get a little bit closer to becoming a person I’m not always mad at.
Please forgive me
for not flossing every day, despite what I know
for so often thinking I know everything, let alone anything at all
for being withholding when you’ve wanted to be held
for failing to say what I need before I turn resentful
for opting to say mostly what’s lovely, and struggling to say the whole truth
for being a better friend than wife or writer, and not wanting to be a mother at all
for coming to care at times begrudgingly
for my vanity, particularly when it makes me ugly
for how cruel I can be to this living, breathing, miraculous body that is so much smarter than me
for refusing to believe in god, despite what I don’t know
for hating math, god I hate math
for thinking I’m too cute for math
for how quick I can be to judge others’ weakness, for despising in others what I despise in myself and allowing that to make me difficult when I have wanted to move with grace
for using words I don’t always understand
for borrowing trouble that isn’t mine
for being so bad at mail and at going to the doctor, despite what I know and say I want
for how often I screw the top back on only 40% of the way
for the messes I make, for how cranky messes make me
for the length of this, how I repeat myself
for my impatience with repetition
for my impatience with myself and others
for the mornings I choose to poison my brain before I’ve even brushed my teeth, for how easily one awful tweet can derail me from the task of protecting my peace, for every time I’ve spent an hour scrolling rather than basically anything else, including the no fewer than one million things I’d like to do before I’m dead
for how morose I can be
for how often I talk about 9/11
for every time I’ve let myself be someone else’s instrument
for something I’ll probably do later
(The best I can do is try.)
Anyway, here’s another poem. It’s the one that reminded me of the one up there, and started all this nonsense. I came upon it the other night when a very kind and gentle and talented angel—we’ll call them Chris because that’s their name—casually quoted it during the last meeting of a month-long poetry workshop that I think has lit up a new part of my brain, but I’ll tell you more about that later.
For now, take this, and be good to you in whatever ways you can.
Under One Small Star
by Wisława Szymborska
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I'm mistaken, after all.
Please, don't be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don't rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table's four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don't pay me much attention.
Dignity, please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.
Soul, don't take offense that I've only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can't be each woman and each man.
I know I won't be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
i want more.