Maybe If–dVerse Meeting the Bar


Photo: writingforrecovery.com

Photo: writingforrecovery.com

I’d noticed
how she
pushed that piece of Kung
Pao Shrimp around
the plate and left it
balancing
precariously
on the edge.

If I’d taken time
to hear to the words,
she didn’t speak.
Or if I’d
caught the way her
eyes avoided mine,
staring at some
distant intersection
on the horizon
of her world.

If I’d paid attention
to the curtains
drawn tight against
intrusion
or if I’d wondered why
she never called
me back.

Maybe then she
would not have chosen
to die so soon.

I’m hosting Thursday over at dVerse for Meeting the Bar and asking you to consider issues that inspire you most, and to write a poem using your distinct poetic voice. I hope you will meet us there. The doors open at 3:00 PM EDT.

Death and dying are frequent themes in my writing…in case you haven’t noticed. This is based on a true story. Although I’ve worked with persons who suffer from depression much of my nursing career, I didn’t pick up on it. When you’re close to someone it’s easy to miss the obvious, I’m sorry to say.

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51 thoughts on “Maybe If–dVerse Meeting the Bar

  1. Lindy Lee says:

    Yes, when you’re close to someone, you think you know her but you very well do not. You write it most poignantly…

    Like

  2. dragonkatet says:

    Such a sad truth in this one. As one who survived a sibling’s suicide, I can relate to the crushing guilt that those left behind feel. It’s true – sometimes those closest miss the most obvious signs.

    Like

  3. David King says:

    Such a heart-grabbing poem, and one that works well on its several levels. And such an inspired subject for a prompt. I much regretted not being able to participate in this one, but have much enjoyed the responses.

    Like

  4. Baishali says:

    oh goodness … this is superb …

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  5. Powerful, and written with an authentic and original voice. Great choice of image too.

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  6. janehewey says:

    poetically, the authentic voice of your first four lines drew me straight in. you imagery is distinct and not overwhelming. this is a really good poem. and I am so sorry for your loss. I can feel the pain here.

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  7. lorelei jones says:

    “the plate and left it” … This is where I wondered if she had an eating disorder and continued with this belief through to the end of the piece. I believe in the second line of the second stanza, you might have meant to use “too” rather than “to.” What do you think?

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  8. ninotaziz says:

    Lost my comment too.

    What I wanted to say Victoria was, this was superb and I found the curtains drawn tight as a very vivid imagery. It suggest that nothing could be done at that point in time. Thus, it is apt that that was the last stanza or act before the end.

    Thank you for hosting an inspiring topic.

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  9. ninotaziz says:

    Superb, and the part about curtains drawn tight really served as a strong imagery for me. It suggests that nothing could have been done anymore by then. How apt that that was the last stanza before the end.

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  10. Rallentanda says:

    I think we all have to accept our guilt and live with it in a situation like this. It is very harmful to the psyche white washing things and relieving ourselves of blame. No one is going to improve with this sort of attitude.Truth is tough but beneficial in the long run! Thought provoking poem.

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  11. Addiction is an insidious, cunning and baffling disease that leaves loved ones searching their hearts. It’s usually not as simple as ‘If I had done something else, the outcome would have been different.’ But it doesn’t stop us from soul searching.

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  12. Regrets. You capture the torture of the regretful, darkened soul so brilliantly. So paradoxically…

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  13. WabiSabi says:

    This touched my heart very deeply! We seem to second guess ourselves in situations like this when, perhaps, the truth lies in recognizing that we didn’t cause the problem and we could not have fixed it either. Knowing this, however, doesn’t make it easier to accept. I thank you for sharing this poem!

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  14. tigerbrite says:

    We always ask ourselves this question when someone we love dies unexpectedly. What if I hadn’t done this or if I had done that. It is a natural reaction. If only we could have done something…. It is part of the grieving as I remember from the sudden death of my husband. My friend from long ago killed herself 3 years ago. Her husband wrote me that she had Parkinson disease amongst other things and was in deep depression because of her inability to look after herself. I hadn’t seen her for a number of years, but it moved me deeply

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  15. charleenm says:

    Oh, what a clincher at the end! It hit me hard.

    Like

  16. kkkkaty says:

    Well, clinical depression is something I am personally familiar with for many years now. The depths of despair for being unable to live life to it’s fullest or enjoy things like we used to, the feelings of hopelessness that cloud one’s days is very painful and can paralyze one into not being able to reach out. Medicines do help but psychothereapy must go along with. Even then, it’s not always successful. How difficult for you to watch your friend, but know that she must have known you probably understood more than most and were kind to her always. Well portrayed, Victoria.

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  17. This one hits hard…resonates strongly!

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  18. Akila says:

    for some lettign their heart out is in itself a solution but unfortunately it is termed as an illiness!

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  19. alan1704 says:

    I can feel your pain and the what if’s…..Regret is hopeless emotion, that can hinder us from all God wants us to embrace. Embrace love and trust the love of the father. Painful words and emotion. You have my prayers

    Like

  20. Rowan Taw says:

    Incredibly tragic. It can be so hard to spot. Some people can even wear a happy mask right up to the end.

    Like

  21. wolfsrosebud says:

    truly captured the pain

    Like

  22. I read this earlier when I first saw it posted. It moved me tremendously. I do not know if we have experienced similarities in life, but your words always ring true, honest and sincere to me. We sound differnt, you and I, but we sound the same as well. If that ,makes any sense. Excellente poem that moves me to tears each read. I think I’ll give it a rest now for self preservation. Great job hosting and supern topic.

    Like

  23. aka_andrea says:

    so many maybes left behind. a hard place to be and wonder what if. this is a powerful piece.

    Like

  24. Oh, the pain in this, the what-ifs we torment ourselves with–nothing at all compared to the pain she must have felt to choose to end it instead of keeping on. Sad. You wrung my heart with this.

    Like

  25. Ravenblack says:

    I like how you tell it through description of little actions. Narrator looking back and realizing she didn’t take note of the details or at least what they were hinting to. Feeling it all just reading this.

    Like

  26. nico says:

    Very moving piece, and it touches a tender spot with me–a friend at work told me a few days ago her 17 yr. old. daughter tried to kill herself. Thankfully she was unsuccessful and is getting the help she needs. Well done–you said just enough to say everything.

    Like

  27. It’s when the poet takes your heart from your chest in her hands and presses in, returns it gently and somehow changed, then you realize you have been touched by a master. Your work does this to me… your poem with the ‘I am’ statements as well… lovely, just lovely. Thank you.

    Like

  28. Oh wow. This made me swallow very hard. This is so sad Victoria but so well written. The moving but simple movement in your imagery is easy to follow in this so it’s easy to understand but so powerful.

    Like

  29. heidi says:

    very sad, and so easy to miss, even when you are used to looking for the clues.

    Like

  30. welshstream says:

    Oh my …. a powerful poem capturing the implicit and painful questions raised …..’Or if I’d
    caught the way her
    eyes avoided mine’

    the pivotal line for me. A deeply moving poem

    Like

  31. So true; we often miss the subtle signs. So many cries for help go un-noticed.

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  32. Laurie Kolp says:

    As you probably know, a close friend of mine killed herself several years ago. I have to agree those closest to the person can be the last to see the signs. For a long time, I beat myself thinking I might have done something to save her, but I’m not that powerful. This is great, Victoria… and thought-provoking!

    Like

    • I do remember that, Laurie. While my friend didn’t overtly commit suicide, she drank herself to death. Not even her husband knew what was happening. The doctor had told her she would die if she kept drinking…and she did.

      Like

  33. aprille says:

    It’s not so much the not-noticing, as the fear of taking action where you are not sure how that will be received.
    I’m sure many of us will have been shocked and felt guilt.

    Like

  34. mefeedyoume says:

    your story is in the details…. like that curtain and the balancing shrimp… they make the difference

    Like

  35. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Gosh, I wrote a special comment, and it does not appear. Good old WordPress. I noted that maybe this person was mute to you, that you did not hear her because she never cried for help, did not seek it, wanted no intervention; that hind sight is 20/20, and regret sprouts like mold on the membranes of our heart.

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  36. Susan says:

    You’ve touched me where I have similar what-if videos replay of people who have checked out–the artist I could have arranged an exhibit for, the student who wrote a play about jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Your poem allows me to take this journey with a narrator whose voice is now calm, as if the anger and frustration have had time to go away and only the love and the replay is left. Those of us who have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people have this pain and more–the hunger, sexual abuse–but we also have the joy of those who did better and reached for dreams with the tools they need to achieve them.

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  37. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Hindsight is always 20/20, and regret sprouts like mold on the membranes of our heart. Maybe you did not hear her call for help because she withheld it from you, did not want intervention or obstruction. So many quandaries for our daily grind; loved the poem.

    Like

  38. Moved me close to tears, and my father always said..

    afterwards it’s always to late … If only.

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  39. Tony Maude says:

    Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching write Victoria. “If only” are two of the worst words to put together in the English language; they never seem to precede anything good.

    Like

  40. Mary says:

    Regrets are hard, especially when we think if only we had noticed and done something we could have made a difference. I have long thought that what is NOT said is oftentimes more important than what is said. And this seems to be true in this situation too. The shrimp, the curtains….all important as a person looks back. But in the end who knows if anything at all could have changed the outcome. An honest well-done write, Victoria.

    Like

  41. viv blake says:

    If only I’d … are some of the saddest words in the English language. I never get the dverse prompts until late in the day, so it’s nice to have some advance warning!

    Like

  42. PoetJanstie says:

    O my goodness, Victoria, if only you knew how that touches a nerve – thankfully now recovered – of someone close to me. This carries with it the essence of how important it is to read those signs, to save a life. And you have done it, in my humble opinion, poetically brilliantly. Super poetry. Thank you for sharing.

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  43. claudia says:

    oh victoria..that is so tough..i can imagine how to replay the scene again and again..and with it come the questions and the what if’s… so tough…but as bri says, you can’t put that on yourself…really tightly written

    Like

  44. Jamie Dedes says:

    The questions we all ask ourselves … sometimes over and over. If I had, If only. but then. It turns the heart inside out. Well done, Victoria. You took us right to that place and put a mirror in front of us. Bravo!

    Like

  45. brian miller says:

    ugh…twist in the gut on this one…and what a hard thought to live with as well…thinking that maybe if you would have done something different perhaps she might still be here….you cant put that on yourself though…ugh…tight write v

    Like

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