[“It could have happened” from “Could Have”  in Wislawa Szymborska Poems New and Collected]


It could have happened if I hadn’t said anything.

I had a bad feeling. But thought for once make

a stand. She traveled south for an hour and I

didn’t know. Next thing word gets out. By then

I’d made my decision and things were never

the same. I was never one for control but is that

true? Maybe what I really mean is never

one for being out of control. And what I said

well forget it. What she heard was don’t come

when I don’t feel like it. So he felt like it.

And she felt like it. Hey there’s a pattern.

And today on social media I saw his face

how many years later? 53 years? What

am I on about? Oh yes. It could have.

But it didn’t. That’s the other side of every

crossroads, right? We go on our way

with no regrets. This is dangerously close

to what if. What if I’d gotten off the train

at Hiroshima. What if I hadn’t gotten drunk

that night in the orchard. What if I had slept

by myself that night at Butte Creek. That

night. How often under the cover of dark.

How often sex whiskey or a door left banging

in the wind. At the time the mythology

was creating itself while normal people

looked on. At the time the neighbors were

in bed and the streets were empty but

the vision of her in her nightgown out

in the streets under the amber lights or

the time she reached across from the passenger

side and clawed at my face don’t tell me

what we see is ourselves tell me it could

have happened otherwise if I had or

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