by Louis Jenkins
There’s no use in regret. You can’t change anything.
Your mother died unhappy with the way you turned out.
You and your father were not on speaking terms
when he died, and you left your wife for no good reason.
Well, it’s past. You may as well regret missing
out on the conquest of Mexico. That would have been
just your kind of thing back when you were eighteen:
a bunch of murderous Spaniards, out to destroy a
culture and get rich. On the other hand, the Aztecs
were no great shakes either. It’s hard to know whom
to root for in this situation. The Aztecs thought
they had to sacrifice lots of people to keep the sun coming
up every day. And it worked. The sun rose every day.
But it was backbreaking labor, all that sacrificing.
The priests had to call in the royal family to help,
and their neighbors, the gardener, the cooks…. You
can see how this is going to end. You are going to
have your bloody, beating heart ripped out, but you
are going to have to stand in line, in the hot sun, for
hours, waiting your turn.
“Regret” by Louis Jenkins, from Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems. Will o’ the Wisp Books. © 2013
Louis Jenkins’ poems have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 1999 (Scribner, 1999) and Great American Prose Poems (Scribner, 2003) His books of poetry include An Almost Human Gesture (1987), All Tangled Up With the Living (1991), Nice Fish: New and Selected Prose Poems, Just Above Water, The Winter Road and Sea Smoke. His most recent books are North of the Cities (2007), European Shoes (2008), Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005 (2009), Words and Pictures, with Richard C. Johnson (2012), and Tin Flag (2013), all published by Will o’ the Wisp Books. Mr. Jenkins was awarded two Bush Foundation Fellowships for poetry, a Loft-McKnight fellowship, and was the 2000 George Morrison Award winner. Louis Jenkins has read his poetry on A Prairie Home Companion and was a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in 1996 and at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Aldeburgh, England in 2007. Louis Jenkins and Mark Rylance, actor and former director of the Globe Theatre, London, co-wrote a stage production titled Nice Fish, based on Mr. Jenkins poems. The play premiered April 6, 2013, at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and ran through May 18, 2013.