“My only regret is that I wasn’t born somebody else.” Woody Allen
Sorry I’m late, you whisper
as you slip into the room
with your breath in your fist.
Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry you mumble
as you step over knees, ankles
shopping bags to reach your seat.
The Irish are forever saying sorry.
Sorry we say when some stranger
bumps into us on the street
sends our parcels flying.
He’s a sorry-looking article
we say of the wet dog, drunken neighbor
tight-lipped civil servant.
For all the sins of my past life
and those I haven’t yet committed
I am truly and irrefutably sorry.
Sorry to interrupt, sorry to have to tell you
sorry for your troubles, trials and tribulations
sorry for living.
Stop apologizing, your sister-in-law keeps telling you
not realizing that self-deprecation is your Siamese twin
and not even surgery could separate you now.
Say you’re sorry, we tell our children
when we catch them acting the maggot
or I’ll give you something to be sorry about.
ANGELA PATTEN is author of two poetry collections, Reliquaries and Still Listening, both published by Salmon Poetry, Ireland. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies and in numerous literary journals, and her poem "Mea Culpa" is featured this site. A native of Dublin, Ireland, she now teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Vermont in Burlington. She lives in Burlington with her husband, poet Daniel Lusk.