You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake.
— Dorianne Laux, from “Antilamentation”
So list ’em. Write ’em down. C’mon, you’ve kept
some of them—too many of them—wrapped
around your heart like rusty barbed wire,
and if you make a list (too many rainstorms without an umbrella)
you’ll feel better, truly (I thought I could hack chemistry?)
the badder, the better (charred my lungs on one cigarette)
(sneaked a look at my notes on the final)
(who said red hair would look good on me?)
(the accident/relationship I drove away from)
Keep going, honey:
(shouldna kissed/slept with/married that one)
(took the wrong class/wrong turn/wrong job)
(forgot to water the plants/feed the cat/pay those bills)
(ran the stop sign/ran up the credit cards/ran when it got tough)
Worst of all?
(didn’t trust you/love you/let you love me)
(didn’t say goodbye/should’ve stayed till the end/fell for someone else)
And now look at your list, fingers on the page,
lift it to your lips and kiss it, then let it go—
send your regrets floating off a bridge,
rocking to the river below, then floating away,
or folding it into an airplane, throwing it
as hard and far as you can,
or setting it aflame, or burying it in a deep hole.
Unwind that barbed wire from your heart
and repeat three times:
That and that and that made me
You can listen to Jan read this poem here.