Poetry Porch: Forgiveness


by Michael Blumenthal

Bleibtreustrasse: a street in Berlin, whose name is taken from the German verb treubleiben, "to remain faithful."
I have sat on many streets,
in dark cafés at midday, and in dimly lit bars,
and know how neatly the heart seeks out
its original home, how easily we drift
to do the dark things done to us. Whose heart
has ever been wise enough for more goodness
than, unformed, it was granted? What boy
who's sniffed at his own body in search of treachery
hasn't grown treacherous? And who
hasn't listened, trembling,
while life cried out: diversify,
and love called back: to specialize?

How often have I walked out, ravenous,
with thoughts of betraying you? But,
time and again, the voice of some better being
cries out, and I see your rectifying face
in the mirror over the bar. O love,
who can resist being shamed into goodness
by his own late luck? And who can resist
the thrill of his own betrayals? Why
should I lie to you? It never ceases,
the longing. I stare out onto the street.
I turn my lustful eyes back toward the page.
I grieve for my one life. I praise my life.
I speak your name.

Reprinted from The Wages of Goodness by Michael Blumenthal, by permission of the University of Missouri Press.  Copyright 1992 by the Curators of the University of Missouri.