Monday, January 5, 2015

Grandiosity and guilt

Am I alone in occasionally finding a spurious link between my own errors of omission and commission and major events, often tragic? I know at least that Norman Mailer (in whose company I'd quite happily NOT be seen) shared this surmise, connecting the assassination of one of the Kennedys to an illicit sexual foray on his part. Please. 

I'm aware that such thinking is at best narcissistic, and as a rule I dismiss it in a timely fashion. But my absence from home when my wife, yanked off her feet by a squirrel-chasing dog, broke her collarbone in a nasty way late in October, momentarily dipped me into such an idiot trough. The advent of the New Year, with its conventional impulse to resolutions, combined with that grandiose feeling of guilt to produce the following.

       I Should Have

Our dog was not used to a leash.
I should have been holding the dog.
The squirrel was used to leashed dogs.

The dog chased the squirrel to the end of the leash.
The squirrel seemed pretty blasé.
The dog is a strong yellow Lab.

She pulled my wife off her feet.
My wife broke her collarbone.
It was our granddaughter’s birthday.

I should have been at the party.
The whole family was there at the park.
I was in North Dakota.

I should have been holding the dog.
My bones are more tough than my wife’s.
Next day her little dog died.

Not the one that caused the trouble.
Rather, the poor old–blind–deaf spaniel.
He was my love’s special pet.

Our son drove here from his house.
Then he took his mom and her dog to the vet.
I should have been holding the dog.

Our son had just bought the house.
He and his wife were excited.
It was very unselfish to do what he did.

Our son dearly loves his mother.
I love her too beyond words.
It should have been I who drove her.

A man shot eight people soon after.
That mess was way out in Alberta.
I can be grandiose.

I can dream up phony connections.
I can think all bad things are my fault.
I should still have been holding the dog.

Such killings don’t happen up there.
But this was the second last year.
Such things should not happen anywhere.

Two of the dead were young children.
Then the man turned the gun on himself.
“This is awful for us,” said the chief of police.

The weapon was a 9 mill Glock.
It was stolen eight years ago.
But the murders went down in 2014.

So did those other bad things
Meanwhile I stood there or sat.
I paced. I slept. I did nothing.

What could I have done?
It’s five a.m. on New Year’s.
I should have found something to do.

I’ve been thinking of choices I’ve made.
I can think they have big consequences.
I should have been holding the dog.

More consequences than they do.
Oh I’m often so grandiose.
I think of a James Wright poem.

I think, “I have wasted my life.”
My reasons for thinking that differ from his.
In the grand scheme my choices mean nothing.

I accept that. I have no choice.
My wife once hung up a magnet.
Let go or be dragged, it said.

I’m physically stronger than she is.
I’m not so otherwise.
I should have been holding the dog.

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