Poetry

Regret

“Grabbing you on the steps of the New York
Public Library…”

I’d like to take back my not saying to you
those things that, out of politeness, or caution,
I kept to myself. And, if I may —
though this might perhaps stretch the rules —I’d like
to take back your not saying some of the things
that you never said, like “I love you” and “Won’t you
come home with me,” or telling me, which
you in fact never did, perhaps in the newly
refurbished café at the Vancouver Art
Gallery as fresh drops of the downpour from which
we’d sought shelter glinted in your hair like jewels,
or windshields of cars as seen from a plane
that has just taken off or is just coming in
for a landing, when the sun is at just the right angle,
that try as you might, you could not imagine
a life without me. The passionate spark
that would have flared up in your eye as you said this —
if you had said this —I dream of it often.
I won’t take those back, those dreams, though I would,
if I could, take back your not kissing me, openly,
extravagantly, not caring who saw,
or those looks of anonymous animal longing
you’d throw everyone else in the room. I’d like
to retract my retracting, just before I grabbed you,
my grabbing you on the steps of the New York
Public Library (our failure to visit
which I would also like to recall)
and shouting for all to hear, “You, you
and only you!” Yes, I’d like to take back
my not frightening the pigeons that day with my wild
protestations of uncontrolled love, my not scaring
them off into orbit, frantic and mad,
even as I now sit alone, frantic and mad,
racing to unread the book of our love
before you can finish unwriting it.

Troy Jollimore, a philosophy professor at California State University, Chico, is the author of Love’s Vision and two poetry collections, At Lake Scugog and Tom Thomson in Purgatory.