I adore this poem. Fearless, fierce, funny, flagrantly true! As a person who takes risks, and has regrets that circle back like birds to a feeder, I just try not to feed them. This poem helps me realize two important things: regrets will come, whether I feed them or not. I shall do my best to continue not to feed them!
On the other hand, I fully intend to eat hearty today at Thanksgiving and I wish you the best feast ever. (Remember — don’t feed the regrets! They seem tame, but they are not!)
by Louis Jenkins
There’s no use in regret. You can’t change anything.
Your mother died unhappy with the way you turned
out. You and your father were not on speaking terms
when he died, and you left your wife for no good
reason. Well, it’s past. You may as well regret missing
out on the conquest of Mexico. That would have been
just your kind of thing back when you were eighteen:
a bunch of murderous Spaniards, out to destroy a
culture and get rich. On the other hand, the Aztecs
were no great shakes either. It’s hard to know whom
to root for in this situation. The Aztecs thought they
had to sacrifice lots of people to keep the sun coming
up every day. And it worked. The sun rose every day.
But it was backbreaking labor, all that sacrificing.
The priests had to call in the royal family to help,
and their neighbors, the gardener, the cooks…. You
can see how this is going to end. You are going to
have your bloody, beating heart ripped out, but you
are going to have to stand in line, in the hot sun, for
hours, waiting your turn.
“Regret” by Louis Jenkins, from Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems. Will o’ the Wisp Books. © 2013