Borrowed these words by Leah Nielsen because they struck a chord (as poems must or there's no point in them.) I reproduce it with permission from both the publisher (Word Press) and poet with many thanks.
Apology, a Love Poem
The small fire reaches into the fallen branches,
and the lawn chairs—webbing cracked, frames worn
to bent like the edge of land along the river—hold
the weight of us, and a dull fleshing knife
takes to the tangle of hooks, last year’s line still stuck
to some and I say I’m sorry
until I forgive myself. And the sticks root
in the sand, the chalk line bound to them.
Apologize until I forgive you
for what you haven’t done. How easily
the night crawlers slip onto the hooks, knot
themselves around the end. You toss the trotline
smooth as water into the water and the water smoothes
itself into the night, and the night pulls
the sparks from the fire, and nothing fades.
The finding of this poem was, I suppose a kind of penance for me. I'd hurt someone with reckless words and I was very sorry.
And the row was stupid because it did not tell of the true source of the pain. They were the wrong words because they were the nearest ones to reach for and weren't even in themselves true words. And then the right words that needed to be told (one day, gently, over a glass of beer) got distorted over the sound of raised voices.
Friends, you did nothing. I provoked you. Pushed you shamelessly to the brink. I didn't even understand my need to do so. (Except that I hurt, and so should you.)
The poem helped because here's someone else in the same position finding it hard to forgive herself:. "... until I forgive myself ... apologise until I forgive you/ for what you haven't done ...". Exactly how I felt.
It's a strange thing in poetry (and I suppose in literature in general) that even though it's someone else's story that's being told, we recognise ourselves in it ... much more than if it expressed vague generalisations about that theme. I see this couple by the river's edge, on a fishing trip, not talking. She is the one apologising (because somehow it's always the She's of the world who has to do the apologising, while the He's really don't - even when things are their fault - in my experience!). I see them as a long-married couple, a little worn, like their chairs.
The tangle of hooks and lines ... isn't that just the whole complication of relationships? How do you untangle things, straighten things out? Can you?
But there's hope, isn't there, in the last stanza: the water smoothing itself into night, night pulling the sparks from the fire?
Sometimes the anger is necessary. But one also hopes for healing.