Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
"Antilamentation" by Dorianne Laux from The Book of Men. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. For the author's website, see here: http://doriannelaux.com.
Dorianne Laux (born 1952) has published seven collections of poetry. She taught poetry at North Carolina State University and is a founding member of Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program. Her book Only as the Day Is Long (2019) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Laux's poems have been translated into French, Italian, Korean, Romanian, Afrikaans, Dutch, and Brazilian Portuguese.
Dan Clendenin: firstname.lastname@example.org