Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Quaker Learns to Swear


You need to learn to swear, he told me.
A Quaker like you, so controlled
--it's not healthy.

I wondered if he might be right.
I did feel choked up at times
by the undone dishes and frayed edges,
not to mention the major injustices of life.

Leaning into memory, I brought up
words from TV and novels, phrases
my grandfather had used when provoked.
I rehearsed them mentally,
avoiding the mirror.

A few weeks later,
something he said (I can't remember what),
--a twist of sarcasm,  a patronizing hint--
and a voice whispered, Now.
I looked straight at him
and with a keen and measured ferocity said,
I just don't give a hell.

In the following silence, I realized
I hadn't quite brought it off.
Finally he said, If you're going to swear,
at least do it right.

  I'm practicing.
Next time I'll get it.
Mountains will quake.

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