Monday, March 12, 2012

If Only

Second guessing. Doubt. Regret… Even the weakest of us knows that post hoc grumbling about the reasons why promises nothing in the way of justification or comfort, and in the end, is a futile exercise. But does that understanding stop any of us from trying to connect the dots? We are all chronic disassemblers of our misfortune, our mistakes and screw ups. Oh, if only… Why didn’t…? But I didn’t know… It happened because… All after the event, all post hoc, a slippery grasp at the elusive gift of hindsight.

A native of Washington State, Jennifer Maier teaches literature and creative writing at Seattle Pacific University and serves as an associate editor of Image journal. A native of Seattle, she is a graduate of the University of Washington and Tulane University. She began writing poetry as a kind of procrastination to avoid studying for her oral exams. Her first poem, a mock heroic paean to the giant flying cockroaches of New Orleans succeeded in getting published though it failed to cure her phobia for cockroaches. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poet, The Mississippi Review and been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Her first collection, Dark Alphabet, won the Crab Orchard Review Series in Poetry First Book Award and was named one of the Ten Remarkable Books of 2006 by the Academy of American Poets. A second collection entitled Now, Now is forthcoming.

“Post Hoc” appears in Maier’s book, Dark Alphabet. The poem cleverly and with a an enjoyable dose of humor points out the folly of constructing excuses after the fact.

Post Hoc

It happened because he looked a gift horse in the mouth.
It happened because he couldn’t get that monkey off his back.
It happened because she didn’t chew 22 times before swallowing.
What was she thinking, letting him walk home alone from the bus stop?
What was he thinking, standing up in the boat like that?
Once she signed those papers the die was cast.
She should have waited an hour before going in; everyone knows
salami and seawater don't mix.
He should have checked his parachute a seventh time;
you can never be too careful.
Why didn’t she declare her true feelings?
Why didn’t she play hard to get? She could be out at some
nice restaurant right now instead of in church, praying
for the strength to let him go.
It all started with that tattoo.
It all started with her decision to order the chicken salad.
Why was he so picky?
Why wasn't she more discriminating?
He should have read the writing on the wall; listened
to the still small voice, had a lick of sense. But how could he when he
was blinded by passion? Deaf to warnings? Really dumb?
Why, why, in God’s name, did he run with scissors?
If only they’d asked Jesus for help.
If only they’d asked their friends for help.
If only they’d ignored the advice of others and held fast
to their own convictions, they might all be here, now,
with us, instead of six feet under; instead of trying to adopt
that foreign baby, instead of warming that barstool
at the Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge, wondering how it might all
have been different, if only they had done
the right thing.


  1. A poem about me. And you. And the guy down the street. And the lady over there. Why didn't I read more poetry earlier in life? I might have been a poet. Why didn't I realize that poetry is like all other writing? It's whatever you want it to be. Why did I judge those earlier poetry books by the cover?


About Me

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