More than once I’ve thought about
a man in his recliner watching football,
and told myself that it should have been me.
I should have continued my career,
such as it was, and worked myself to rest
fully funded and mostly healthy in such a chair,
or so it would appear to others.
More than once I’ve lamented
that I took what some would say
was the lazy road and followed
words down another path.
I could have done it part time
as I did for years and maybe
done more if I hadn’t been so bent
on chasing them where they went
instead of having them come
to where I reclined in comfort.
More than once I’ve mourned
the self I lost the day
I turned in my ID badge
and walked to my car with a box
of stuff I did not need which felt like
gold I’d mined and wanted to keep
as proof of my having mattered
in one specific place and time.
I was a fool, of course, then and now.
I had never mattered that much then
and I don’t matter now. If I stop now
in ten years most won’t remember
much of anything I’ve said or done.
It’s fine, really. Did I move
the earth? No, it moved
anyway pretty much
as it would have if I’d stayed
in that job. Did they miss me
when I was gone? No, at least
not for long. Did they miss
the gold I’d taken with me? No.
It was not real, as it turned out.
As for the time since: did I move the earth
with my words? No. Did they pay back
all I owed? No. Do I get to rest
now that I’ve acknowledged
how small I am? No.
Did I owe you all this work? No.
All I wanted, all I needed
was a recliner and handfuls of love
from those I loved in this life,
then silence in the next.
I’ve been told it’s golden.
I’ve been told it feels like peace.