Cast Off

By Belle Randall b. 1940 Belle Randall

If thy own hand . . . offend thee
      —Matthew 18:8

Self-hatred? No, no dear: that seems inflated
chagrin: the shame you feel when friends withdraw
for reasons they leave tactfully unstated,
leaving you to guess at your faux pas

From all you did and didn’t say for ages,
as in some vast congressional report,
your sin, at last, is lost among the pages;
a snow of detail cuts inquiry short.

In downtown windows where late sunlight glares,
you see yourself, as if you’d never met.
Who is this rumpled lookalike who wears
a blouse like yours, the armpits dark with sweat?

Your eighth grade diary still makes you cringe
saved—for what?—that you might now despise
pages time has lent a jaundiced tinge
pouring forth their daisy-dotted i’s?

Some second-guesser in you finds untrue
the echo of your own voice in your ears,
and wants to ask which one most sickens you:
the voice that whines with neediness and fears,

Or one no doubts can ever undermine,
that speaks before a general assembly,
proclaiming loudly what to do with thine
own hand (or his, or mine), should it offend thee?

Source: Poetry (September 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2009
 Belle  Randall


Born in Ellensburg, Washington, poet Belle Randall earned a BA at the University of California Berkeley, an MA at Stanford University, and a second MA at the University of Washington. Her precise use of form and meter often shapes portraits of both observed life and interior states. She is the author of the poetry collections 101 Different Ways of Playing Solitaire and Other Poems (1973) and The Coast Starlight (2010). She . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Midlife, Time & Brevity, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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