APOLOGY    Issue #100

Renée's poem A NICE POEM IN PRAISE OF SEX TO MAKE UP FOR THE ONE THAT WASN'T SO NICE is a kind of apology - a form long popular in literature.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Apologia pro Vita Sua defends and apologizes for the poet:

The poet in his lone yet genial hour
Gives to his eyes a magnifying power :
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size--
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,

His gifted ken can see
Phantoms of sublimity.

And what about the apologia? For example, the Apologia Sokratous by Plato ? An apologia is actually a defense, as in his Defense Of Socrates.  Aren't many apologies a kind of defense - against the wounded party, for a mistake, a misstep?

Another brief look - in Mary Jo Bang's book, Apology for Want she says:

want appropriates us,
sends us out dressed in ragged tulle,
but won't tell
where it last buried the acorn or bone.

The dictionary says it can also be an acknowledgment of regret, or asking of pardon for a fault, or an inferior substitute.  We often make them, perhaps more often should make them. You can also read Renee Ashley's poem "Why I Never Came" and consider how it approaches the nature of apology.

We asked poets for this issue (our 100th!) to write a poem which is, in some way, an apology as defined above. Take the voice of the apologist or the one who receives the apology.

Renée Ashley's third poetry collection, The Revisionist's Dream, was published by Avocet Press Inc (2001). Her other books include The Various Reasons of Light (Avocet) and Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press). Her novel, Someplace Like This, was published in 2003.


Poets get old.
What can I say.
We do.
I look around and see my mentors
using canes,
having trouble reading their own words,
their love poems, their sex poems
sound sad, wistful, longing.
I find myself in a room full of years
and it smells like the hall of my grandparent's house
when I was a child, and the smell
lingers on me when I come home to you.
I am sure you smell it on my fingers
when I touch your face,
though I run my fingers first through your hair,
between your legs, across your back,
hoping to hide it in your youth,
sorry for having to make you watch me
finish a couplet
that is anything but heroic.

Charles Michaels


I'm sorry
that I am a peasant girl
with peasant breasts
large for large families
wasted on one daughter
who refused to nurse,
the aureoles that turned chocolate brown
and you lost your taste for that from my thighs
grows a full bush of hair, untrimmed
and that I smell of preserves,
vegetables put up in times of bounty,
never wasting, always holding back some,
or maybe it's the slippery scent
of chicken that I seasoned with so many herbs
that you said it no longer tasted like what it was,
how I hid my sweat with the juice of lemon,
how I loved the fragrance of my hands
when I had peeled an orange
and sectioned it for the two of us,
the burst of the skin in my mouth,
the pips that I would move under my lips
with my tongue.

I'm sorry
that I could not be who you wanted me to be,
sorry that you could not be who I needed.

Lianna Wright


When you are dyslexic
You learn to apologize early,
Grow a tail
And curl it between your legs.
It's not the accident of not seeing
But you say, you saw
And went ahead
Thinking nothing would happen
But things happen to fast.

And even later
You ask people to repeat in triple time
Words spelled so simply
That and phat and what or twat
The hat that sat on cat my twat.
Elmer Fudd and Mr. Magoo
How ever true, you as magoo
For being who you bee
At the end of an eye beam
A swing between criticize and lies.

I have vowed
To repeat five times a day
I will not say
If only I had not done that
If only I had done that
Take you pick
To be slick
Or just quick
Or mighty sick.

Here is the apology
I as a crossbearer
And you as the declarer;
As much for your error
As for my stated terror.
Friends, poetic sharer.

Edward N Halperin


Portrait painting-- See a little clearer. Paint a little better.
Rock climbing—Get a little stronger. Hold on a little longer.
Need a major operation—Put your house in order. Say all your goodbyes.

She had given up dreams of mastery,
Knowing she had passed Talent while strolling down the street.
Knowing tenacity and interest were not enough to scale the Shawangunks.
Satisfaction with the momentary pleasure of the deed had to be enough.

But to need a major operation,
She cannot let go. She cannot clear her head.
Possibly ending a life that is not finished is more than she can bear.
She puts aside the meditation and the prayer,
Demanding tomorrows of the universe.

Ellen Kaplan



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