"Book of Mild Regrets"
by Mary Biddinger
Here I am, fretting over whether it’s okay
to take a second Zyrtec, when fifteen years ago
I downed a pill nicknamed El Capitan while
a woman I just met shaved my head with a knife.
It was clear I would never become a Fly Girl
because the decade was off, but my greatest hits
still snapped on like a trustworthy lantern.
Today I apply several coatings of organic spray
proven to further cleanse small batch basil
I vetted at Whole Foods, when almost yesterday
my amateur chainmail had me swallowing
half a marsh in one night, my friend disappeared
past the gorge, a man with sufficient facial
metal to be characterized as a homemade weapon.
Something spiked that was spiked, noise
eating itself beneath flat rocks. And why is it now
I can’t settle on a single laundry detergent
but keep replacing what I have with what seems
milder, like the time I cried for sixteen hours
over a photograph of a Chincoteague pony, lodged
between the fence and the hillside, fetlocks
hammered by street mud. When I take my clothes
off and iron them better, when I recycle fifty
sheets of paper for one italic comma, maybe I pay
some forgotten bar tab. Like the time I fell
straight through a mirror imported from Galway.
I was standing in the apple aisle. Ambrosia, Braeburn. Even before the pandemic I preferred shopping right when the store opened. This day I was in my neighborhood Whole Foods. Grocery list on a sticky note on the back of my phone. It wasn’t cold outside. I didn’t have a jacket. I was the sole customer standing in the apple aisle while workers stocked things and then oh lord, like a gale peeled back the roof of the store, every speaker lit up crashing the opening notes of “Jane Says.” Something went through my body like I was being hotwired. Is it possible to envy a past self for its brave stupidity? This is a poem attempting to answer that question.
Mary Biddinger’s latest poetry collection is Partial Genius (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). Poems have recently appeared in Court Green, POETRY, Tupelo Quarterly, and Waxwing, among others. She is a professor of English at the University of Akron, and edits the Akron Series in Poetry. Biddinger has received awards or fellowships from the Cleveland Arts Prize, Ohio Arts Council, and NEA.