AM I WORTHLESS? by John Tustin

My wife has called me worthless
innumerable times.
Because I did not perform,
did not negotiate,
did not meet her predetermined
criteria in some way,
in any way
(I take it
like a boxer
takes a right hook).

I have seen that look,
barely camouflaged,
in the eyes of my parents,
my teachers,
former friends,
employers:

The disappointment.

Because on the surface,
in the smiling beginning,
I seemed better,
smarter, stronger,
full of promise.
Shy but brave.
Capable.
Culpable.

I watched my mother cry
and couldn’t reach out to her,
hug her,
give her what she wanted.
I was a child
no matter what my age.

I cried once as she was dying,
once when she died,
and once after.

I have been fired from a job.
I have been asked
not to return
to a dozen places;
a job, a diner,
the Long Island Railroad,
an acquaintance’s home.

I have done things
I am ashamed of,
when clothed or naked,
and they burn my soul, these things,
until the smell of rot
comes from it.

But when my friend Emily
moved to Boston seventeen years ago
she wrote me a letter
telling me
there was a light around me
she could see
and it was a rare thing I had.

And either she saw something
or was lying to me
to make me feel good
and either way

when I think about it
the angels that
I blasted
out of the sky
with gunshots and words
and action
and inaction
rise and glow like the promise of heaven,
forgiving me,
waving glorious wings
of a slowly unfolding
rapture.

Oh,
I am something bright and beautiful!

Emily,
this poem is for you.

3 comments:

Old 333 said...

!!

Well said.

It's like being a strobe lamp. I eventually turned to the doktors for help. Which has been...OK. I had run out of relationships, jobs, and strength. Now, at least, I can write again.

The word unspoken (because people think it's contagious and dangerous) is bipolar. Thank you for such a clear and excellent portrait of riding the thin thread of self in such a life.

You are strong, to speak, and so well.

Particularly "Capable./Culpable." Yes, oh yes indeed, that is how we are seen, and for many good reasons.

And hey, if I'm projecting....so be it. Your poem reached me. Thanks for it.

Peter Greene

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are totally worthless

Anonymous said...

Worthless but wanted.

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Black-Listed Magazine is an online literary magazine. We publish on a rolling basis: weekly, daily, sometimes hourly. Send submissions here: blacklistedmagazine@hotmail.com