if only…

Apr 1, 2021 poetry appreciation

Apologies for radio silence over the last 2 weeks; I’ve not been well. I’m glad to be back, not least because this week’s poem is a relatively new discovery (to me) and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it. Some part of me deeply recognises the states and thoughts described in Jennifer Maier’s ‘Post Hoc‘ by Jennifer Maier. How about you?

Why is it so tempting, sometimes, to go down that cul-de-sac, “after, therefore because”? Is it about maintaining the fiction of control? Is it the habit of self-criticism? Superstition? Neurosis? Or, perhaps, the bargaining stage of Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief?—that is to say, the stage of wondering and what-if-ing we can get into when it’s just too hard to accept the truth of what has happened? Perhaps it can be all these things and more.

I love the way Maier switches between he, she and they to point the fact that we’re all subject to regrets and what ifs. I think she’s also really clever in the way that the consequences—whatever ‘post’ has involved—are not explained until the end of the poem; are so various; and (eventually) are so unspecific and all-encompassing. This last really helps evoke that state of mind in which we feel there’s no way we could ever have got it right; no way we could win. After all, if both ‘declar[ing] her true feelings’ and ‘play[ing] hard to get’ are “wrong”, what can you do? Go figure.

But the part-wry, part-tragic image of ‘warming that barstool/ at the ‘Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge’ also reminds us that there can be something victim-y and self-indulgent about propter hoc thoughts, and we can get stuck in them. And while I might pop into that establishment, or spend an afternoon there, I don’t want to become a regular…

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