Poem: The Certainty of Others

The Certainty of Others

Other people were certain.
They told me so.
They told me what

I was thinking. What
I was feeling. What
my motives were, so sure

that no amount of protest
would change
their mind. I was assigned

their truth with little concern
for mine.

Part of it was my fault.
I am slow to feel. Slow to be able
to voice my truth.

I could tell you the whys,
but who needs cliff notes
from half a decade of therapy?

It could bore even me.

The point is this. For a time,
their certainty was the victor.
Opinion has a way of battering truth

when applied long and loud enough.
And I began to doubt
myself. The few feelings that got through.

They almost won, those who knew,
those who were so certain, and so determined
to believe the worse.

It was a weird kind of battering,
a thing I did not see for generations
until I was left alone by those who “loved” me

as long as I was the one who they imagined.

Alone to feel, no interruptions, allowed
to be slow. But most of all, to just be,
to do the slow work of restoration, of reclamation.

to become something I had not been allowed,
even as a child. To be
me. To be allowed, to hear no one’s voice

but my slow drawl of emotion, until
my voice grew strong. Slow still, but strong.
It still feels strange, my own voice

rattling around in my head, finally louder
that those who tried to fill in the silence
with their own truth.

Finally, I have mine.
And no matter how loud people protest,
I am comfortable with their poor hearing

and their sight driven more by their pasts
and imagination than truth. Fiction is fine,
I just suck at it.


About this poem.

This was going to be an essay. I had written four pages on the subject in my journal this morning and it felt like I wasn’t yet done. But my poet’s eye decided differently. No essay for me. Sometimes the details get in the way of the larger truth, but not in poetry.

The picture was taken in Colonial Williamsburg. One of the things I discovered about myself after my divorce is just how minimalist I am at heart, and true Colonial style reflects that perfectly.


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