Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Something about Ghosts and Goldfish

Most if not all of us have regrets of one kind or another at just about every stage in our lives. The trick is never to believe it is too late to do something we wished we had done but couldn’t, wouldn’t or simply didn’t for whatever reason. We cannot turn back the tide of subsequent events, of course, but more often than not we can put our minds at rest to some extent rather than keep fretting our lives away…

Worse, perhaps, is regretting something we did simply because we wanted to do it, but the consequences were not as we may have hoped. Even so, better to have given it a go than spend a lifetime wondering how things might have turned out if only…

Yes, there will be some who feel inclined to observe, even judge us, but judge us according to criteria of their own, rarely if ever ours. We may well care what they think, but they might as well observe a goldfish for all it really matters. [Does it matter to a goldfish what we think of them, I wonder? Who knows…? If not, as I suspect, maybe there is some cause for envy there after all…] Whatever, let's be self-confident not self-conscious, yes? YES.

I once asked a tramp why he lived rough. ‘Because I like it’, he said, ‘and sleeping under the stars gives me a good feeling, so it does.’ ‘What about when it’s pouring with rain and freezing cold?’ I wanted to know. He shrugged. “We all of us have to take the rough with the smooth, so we do. Besides, the stars aren’t going anywhere are they...?’


Can’t hear for ghosts,
scratching at the door, damp patches
on walls, bars
across a window taunting us
with wannabe personae
demanding to know why we never
made the grade

Sweating like sick kids
on a sunny summer day who’s ma
won’t let us out to play,
always looking for new ways
to get by, but weary
of crosswords, can’t help envying
the goldfish

Dreams like broken hearts
falling apart, everyone pretending
not to notice for fear
of ‘getting involved’ since
(after all) if the goldfish
cannot be blamed for everything
then who…?
Puppets jerking to order,
except for a street guitar player
making little sense
of a world losing its dignity,
too busy scoring points
against neighbours to give music
its due

Anaesthetized by blame
is about all we cellmates exist for,
deserving everything we get,
prisoners of conscience locked
in his or her own cell
of regret for a life spent envying
a goldfish

Ghosts, scratching at the door,
(nothing to say left unsaid before)
thought couldn’t hurt us
anymore, but we were, oh, so wrong,
to turn a half-deaf ear;
should have paid more attention,
and let them in

Better late than never…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2015

[Note: Revised (2015) from an earlier version entitled ‘Inside’ that appears in First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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