Tag Archives: sympathy

I still would have said it that way

She walks as light as do they all
when echoes—harsh and hot—
invest their every step
and hitch their gasping breaths.

I didn’t mean it that way,
that ‘catch you unawares’ heartache.
I didn’t want it to, I almost say,
but never do—I mean really, how can you?
So I take her words and do what I can,
holding them dearly and using them truly,
keeping some here, others there,
leaving the yearnings to swirl all around,
near and clear—
stilling the air and burning the page before her.

I’m there, aching to be fully in the moment,
and that’s when it hits and hits so hard
that I damn near want to weep:
I look into her words
and they hurt so much because
I think I see—I know I see—me,
caught in what I said,
caught in what she read,
caught finally in her pain.
Who knew?

There is a Czech word litost (pronounced LEE-tosht) which means a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.* That’s what this poem is about: litost moments.

In the end, if poetry is about anything, it is about the degree and quality of connectivity between us, about how we relate, and who we are to each other. And, yes, as the poem says, I do listen as people speak, trying to catch a glimpse of them through the key words and phrases they say and to re-use them again, later, in poems. This poem is, for me, like an “Impressionist” interpretation of emotions and reactions.

Thank you for dropping by. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed I still would have said it that way and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


*In this I am indebted to the book In Other Words by C.J. Moore, a fascinating and very readable lexicon of hard-to-translate foreign words. Highly recommended.

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


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