by Chelsea Bunn

Outside my therapist’s office, three men are planting ferns,

pruning bushes, cutting back the tangled vines          

that twine across the building’s bricks, covering them in green,

and when I reach the door one of them has risen,

and nods his head, and it seems a nod that verges

on pity, as if he’s seeing

into the room I’ll enter to empty myself of grief

       and wants to offer

one gesture before turning back to the roses,

a projection I should share

but never will. Inside, I settle

in the chair across from her, the woman

I see each week despite my fear of being seen.

Have you thought over,

she asks, what we talked about last time? She’s trying

to get me to forgive

            myself. She wants to free me

of the song

I play over and over

            in my mind, which governs

every part of me: nerves,




I sing

myself my sins:

Clear, dry gin.

The man I loved (my roving

heart). The fringes

that I occupied. My father

in his hospital bed and I

            too late. What severing

it must take to let this go.

And now she says, moving a little closer to the edge

of her chair, really seeing

me, or

wanting to, I had a patient once,

in a place far from here, who,

in the impenetrable fog

of her disorders, and guided by some sick version

of herself, killed her three little sons.

And when she came

to see me, after the fever

of her sin

had burned the memory to fine

dust, she didn’t even

know what she had done.

And I had to decide—do I

tell her what she did? And now an ambulance goes

            by outside. I follow the noise

of its thin siren

dragging itself down the street until it’s gone,

and those men, I suppose, are finishing

their work, satisfied by having given

life to that garden, and the garden, content

in being tended to, everything green

and free

to bloom. She says:

I didn’t tell her.

One thought on “Forgiveness

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