Other People's Lives

by Larry Chamberlin   Jan 31, 2017

[“Your mistake is you tell the king what he can do rather than what he should do.”
- Sir Thomas Moore to Cromwell, A Man For All Seasons]

They come to me with all their sordid episodes
spilling them out on my desk
like tax receipts to an accountant
and look to me expectantly to fix it for them.

So I sort it out: toss out the red herrings
until I get to the painful matters
that have them avoiding eye contact
questioning their improbable explanations.

Soon they see that I have the nub of it,
uncovered the shallow graves into which
their crimes against marriage
have been swept from their own sight so long
they had half convinced themselves
these sins had never seen reality.

The only things that keep them there are two:
I'd already done the same analysis
about their god-forsaken slime ball mate, and
they've told me too much to jump and run.

So I counsel them.

They hear what they want for awhile:
like, This issue can be dealt with in one way
while That problem must be met head on
and we must avoid opening the door to This Other matter.

But I've lulled them into a sense of false conspiracy,
fellow travelers on their perdition bound highway;
Then I strike:
show them the higher ground
challenge them to steep ascent
to not just gain the advantage
but to become better than they are,
stronger, independent of controllers.

That's when they squirm, look around the room
think, "how did my parents get here before me?"
They feel the heat of their dystopian lives
and they must choose
to stay in the frying pan
or jump, enduring slow incineration
on coals they fired beneath their lives.

I watch.

I await the point they have made up their minds
but have not determined what next to do.
If I see they accept the challenge
we begin formulating plans -
decide what needs to be done next.

That's so rare it is more aspiration than experience.
Much more often, almost always,
they must be let off the hook
lest they swallow it and tear open
the guts of their lives.

So we talk, we choose the lesser ways
to get them back to the point
they first got into this mess
in the mistaken belief that this time
they'll do it right.

I know better, these souls are repeat business;
they enter new relationships same as the old
like a soul transmigrating to the same fateful life
drawn by unfinished business of personal loss.


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Latest Comments

  • 1 year ago

    by Em

    Larry, I guess this was the challenge to test the waters on how long poetry can be, right? Well, I think you succeeded and with a fantastic piece too.

    I love the title because I thin we would all like to know what goes on in other peoples lifes but without being classed as nosey or interfering.
    At first I was going to dissect this then I realised I had too much to say sp here goes..

    A fantastic opening where can imagine you sit at your desk and about 100 people come in spilling their problems out without even a thought for you or the others and no doubt speaking over each other. I imagine you sit there and scream (maybe not) shut up and listen then become a great problem solver, getting to the nitty gritty of their affairs', make them sweat lol. I imagine you to be the wise counsellor, not just because of you age, because you seem down to earth but when the time comes to be stern, you would be. Then they go round and round in circles saying he did this, she did that, passing on blame instead of standing up to their responsibilities but you make then see sense, see them on their merry way in separate ways and eventually they realise they were probably both at fault and with realisation things are settled more amicably. Maybe I got it all wrong but hey ho, thats my interpretation and less than 2000 words haha.
    All the best, Em

  • 1 year ago

    by Brenda

    Larry, such true words spoken. I know from your comments you work with the family courts? I'm sure you have heard and seen just about everything. It's crazy in human nature that so many people go back to what they know instead of leaping into the unknown of a better life. A vicious circle of no where. Well done-