Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Was the Gun Loaded?

Fear and anxiety are not usual companions around this house, but who can say that the two are total strangers, that a little of each doesn’t sometimes worm it’s way under the door or pry at the windows? For everyone there are surely times when the what if of unanswered fears hovers around the ears and paints gray markings on a day that shines so brightly outside the windows.

In a poem from her 2004 collection Curious Conduct, Jean Marie Beaumont expresses oh so well what that feeling is like. The poem is called “Afraid So” and pairs that ‘answer’ with a series of quite ordinary but especially poignant questions that typify our modern uneasiness.


Is it starting to rain?
Did the check bounce?
Are we out of coffee?
Is this going to hurt?
Could you lose your job?
Did the glass break?
Was the baggage misrouted?
Will this go on my record?
Are you missing much money?
Was anyone injured?
Is the traffic heavy?
Do I have to remove my clothes?
Will it leave a scar?
Must you go?
Will this be in the papers?
Is my time up already?
Are we seeing the understudy?
Will it affect my eyesight?
Did all the books burn?
Are you still smoking?
Is the bone broken?
Will I have to put him to sleep?
Was the car totaled?
Am I responsible for these charges?
Are you contagious?
Will we have to wait long?
Is the runway icy?
Was the gun loaded?
Could this cause side effects?
Do you know who betrayed you?
Is the wound infected?
Are we lost?
Can it get any worse?

Jeanne Marie Beaumont currently teaches at The Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan and in the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. She grew up in the Philadelphia area and moved to New York City in 1983. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University and has published three books of poetry, the latest Burning of the Three Fires in 2010. In 2006 “Afraid So,” was made into a short film by filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt and has since been screened at a number international film festivals.


  1. My goodness, I like this! Thank you.

  2. This is sooooo true, but I never addressed these questions as fear or anxiety. Interesting......

  3. Oh, yes, plenty of questions I could add and have my own anxiety poem. Being human is a constant state of worrying about so many things we have no control over. Took a deadly disease of a family member for me to learn (somewhat) not to sweat the small things. Interesting poem.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America