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

Image of dental floss on red background

September 2020 Poetry Feature

BRUCE BOND
What you have heard is half true, half forgotten. / It’s what we have, a rubric written in old / blood whose spirit of inclusion admits / the occasional invention, the apocryphal / goat at midnight, for one, who has broken / down the gate again, and wandered through...

The book cover for Ricardo Maldonado's "The Life Assignment"

Poems From The Life Assignment

RICARDO ALBERTO MALDONADO
I feel from dignity and calm. I, / anxiety grabbed me // with sciatica, although I recited poems / at a stone’s throw, inside the machine // elevator. The clattering of the empire / its capital / an arsenal of pain, it made for a rough // odor. Now can you see the monument?

Golden Eagle Michael Eastman

Ghost Town

SALLY BALL & MICHAEL EASTMAN 
St. Louis is the center of this series: middle-class (or once middle-class) St. Louis, and the layers of depletion and reinvigoration and depletion-again-anyway-despite that are visible in the facades boarded over, or enlivened (once) with murals, or not painted going on 30-40 years.