Saturday, 16 February 2019

Not Really Relating

by Jeannie E. Roberts

               "Look within, for within is the wellspring of virtue,
                which will not cease flowing, if you cease not from digging."
                Marcus Aurelius

She recalls he was eleven, maybe twelve, when they’d last met.
Anticipating the depth and maturity of a middle-aged man,
her expectations dissolved upon hearing his critique: My god,
what happenedwhat happened to you? Your skin. Your face.

You used to be so gorgeous. Maybe Botox could help.
Despite his potential, he seemed to be a person with little verbal
filter, whose attachment to earthly things had gotten the best
of him. After his comments, he mentioned his fondness

for weightlifting. Demonstrating his skill, he picked her up,
added a robust bear hug and these conciliatory words: but you're
still sweet. Throughout the afternoon, he made troubling remarks
and as he continued down the path of belittlement,

she thought to herself, this is not the kind of company
I wish to keep, especially on my birthday. During their hike,
in the setting she used to call home, the woods appeared darker,
less inviting, it wasn't the fertile ground she’d remembered,

nor wished to remember, it was spoiled, not nearly as pretty.
Thinking about the complexity of our stories and how they often
carry heavy narratives, that October evening, she turned
to the unseen, the missing pieces, the broken and misshapen ones,

hoping that the puzzle might someday be repaired,
compassionately assembled and placed carefully back in its box.
Aligning herself, she visualized a place, a space, where another
kind of beauty exists, one that's aware of something other than

externals, a resonant, deep-seated well of potentiality, a reservoir
that has no knowledge of skin or surface, injury or wrongdoing,
nor any part of our temporal existence. She held this image,
concentrated on its healing properties, envisioned his essence

as kindness, a treasury of strength and goodness, grounded
in confidence, completely detached from self. Within this wellspring,
he appeared aquatic, embryonic, like a fetus prior to birth.

* * * * *

Jeannie E. Roberts has authored four poetry collections, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She is also the author and illustrator of Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children (forthcoming from Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019) as well as Let's Make Faces!a children's book dedicated to her son (author-published, 2009). She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs and a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.


  1. There's an understated levity here that almost mitigates the disappointment of this brave, hopeful, birthday girl. The title's hint of snark sets the tone. I read this twice, enjoying it all the more the second time.