Traffic was heavy coming off the bridge
and I took the road to the right, the wrong one,
and got stuck in the car for hours.
Most nights I rushed out into the evening
without paying attention to the trees,
whose names I didn’t know,
or the birds, which flew heedlessly on.
I couldn’t relinquish my desires
or accept them, and so I strolled along
like a tiger that wanted to spring
but was still afraid of the wildness within.
The iron bars seemed invisible to others,
but I carried a cage around inside me.
I cared too much what other people thought
and made remarks I shouldn’t have made.
I was silent when I should have spoken.
Forgive me philosophers,
I read the Stoics but never understood them.
I felt that I was living the wrong life,
while halfway around the world
thousands of people were being slaughtered,
some of them by my countrymen.
So I walked on–distracted, lost in thought–
and forgot to attend to those who suffered
far away, nearby.
Forgive me, faith, for never having any.
I did not believe in God,
who eluded me.
“A Partial History of My Stupidity” by Edward Hirsch from Special Orders, Knopf.
Read a 2008 transcript of Hirsch discussing his book with Andrea Seabrook of NPR.