Malbolge

By ROBERT BAGG

            We go through life regretting our mistakes.

            One savage quip that can’t be taken back,

            one breach of a friend’s trust is all it takes

            to wrench a lifelong friendship out of whack.

            Some people have an enviable knack

            for sensing when abruptly rising stakes

            demand they steer a colleague back on track,

            defend a friend when he’s under attack,

            or better, shut that damn fool up, for godsakes,                      

            before he makes another brainless crack—

            the kind a smirking frenemy makes

            whispering at a party, behind your back.

            We go through life repenting our mistakes,

            lamenting every virtue that we lack,

            enduring unrelenting conscience-quakes.

            We can’t avoid reliving our mistakes.

            One flashback to our youth is all it takes

            to summon all its nightmare moments back,

            a raucous chorus that calumniates

            us, when our children, friends, and soul mates

            gather around us—an accusatory pack

            whose fiery glare, without a word, creates

            a Hell that aches and sears and flagellates.

 

[Purchase Issue 12 here.]

Robert Bagg has published six books of poetry and nine translations of Sophocles and Euripides (staged worldwide). His Oedipus the King and Antigone are in The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Let Us Watch Richard Wilbur: A Biographical Study, coauthored with his wife, Mary Bagg, is out in February 2017.

Malbolge

Related Posts

poetry feature image

January 2021 Poetry Feature: Bruce Bond

BRUCE BOND
I was just another creature crawling from the mausoleum, / and I thought, so this is it, the place in the final chapter / where I am judged for all my cruelties, blunders, failures of attention, / and I waited for the furies to take me, or some such host. / But it was just another morning.

Sky full of comets

Poems in Translation from Bestia di gioia

MARIANGELA GUALTIERI
And he soars / saved, outstretched / untouched by the gravity that pins us / down / we deserters of empty spaces and heights / shadows cast / into modest taverns for a bite. / Heads in capitals / of rust. / A lifetime annuity of darkness. / Only a cry can save us now.

poetry feature image

December 2020 Poetry Feature: Denise Duhamel and Jeffrey Harrison

DENISE DUHAMEL
Where was I / when I was 20? I’d already been accepted / as an exchange student, taking my first plane ride / to London where I’d catch a train / to Wales. On that first flight, I sat next to a woman / in a shawl—how old was she? It’s hard to say.