National Poetry Month–Rethinking Regret

Today’s poem was chosen by June Hirsh:

junehirsch solo

Elaine Sexton is a contemporary poet who I’ve had the opportunity to meet. 

“Rethinking Regret” expresses that living life is not about order and being safe. Its passionately taking risks, falling on your face. It’s says to be human and alive is to be messy, awkward, not polished and perfect, but open to possibilities, open to impacting the other. 

Sexton says our “perfect mistake” is “keeping the heart awake—open and stunned, stunning.” 

Rethinking Regret

by Elaine Sexton

Let’s thank our mistakes, let’s bless them
for their humanity, their terribly weak chins.
We should offer them our gratitude and admiration
for giving us our clefts and scarring us with
embarrassment, the hot flash of confession.
Thank you, transgressions! for making us so right
in our imperfections. Less flawed, we might have
turned away, feeling too fit, our desires looking
for better directions. Without them, we might have
passed the place where one of us stood, watching
someone else walk away, and followed them,
while our perfect mistake walked straight towards us,
walked right into our cluttered, ordered lives
that could have been closed but were not,
that could have been asleep, but instead
stayed up, all night, forgetting the pill,
the good book, the necessary eight hours,
and lay there—in the middle of the bed—
keeping the heart awake—open and stunned,
stunning. How unhappy perfection must be
over there on the shelf without a crack, without
this critical break—this falling—this sudden, thrilling draft.

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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