With the mistake your life goes in reverse.
Now you can see exactly what you did
Wrong yesterday and wrong the day before
And each mistake leads back to something worse
And every nuance of your hypocrisy
Towards yourself, and every excuse
Stands solidly on the perspective lines
And there is perfect visibility.
What an enlightenment. The colonnade
Rolls past on either side. You needn’t move.
The statues of your errors brush your sleeve.
You watch the tale turn back — and you’re dismayed.
And this dismay at this, this big mistake
Is made worse by the sight of all those who
Knew all along where these mistakes would lead —
Those frozen friends who watched the crisis break.
Why didn’t they say? Oh, but they did indeed —
Said with a murmur when the time was wrong
Or by a mild refusal to assent
Or told you plainly but you would not heed.
Yes, you can hear them now. It hurts. It’s worse
Than any sneer from any enemy.
Take this dismay. Lay claim to this mistake.
Look straight along the lines of this reverse.”
― James Fenton,