Let’s Talk Poetry: Forgiveness

November 17, 2013

Neil Carpathios

Contributing Columnist

No doubt, the act of forgiveness is one of the most intensely human of gestures. It might seem less taxing to just harbor a grudge, or to let past hurts fester, or to indifferently ignore the tangled knot of the heart instead of working at untangling it. And yet, who among us has not been in a position at some point in time, hoping and wishing to be forgiven by somebody? As the great English poet, Alexander Pope, wrote: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Easier said than done.

Matthew Galbraith, a reader of this column, is a poet living in Pittsburgh. He began writing poems in his late teens, and in 1999 self-published a small volume titled Humanoid. In 2010 he published the collection, I Awoke in Dreamland: Poems from Either Side, after a ten year absence from writing during which he engaged in an exhausting study of the poetry of Dylan Thomas, as well as William Blake and E.E. Cummings. Of the following poem titled “forgiveness,” Galbraith writes that “Forgiveness is the most difficult spiritual discipline in most established religions, and just about a deal-breaker for any form of salvation. But it felt good to give expression to those sentiments rather than to deny their existence.”

Here is his poem about this very fundamental spiritual endeavor:


forgiveness begins and ends at ground zero

grace in a golden egg

consummation’s climax at square one

joy in a lager keg

hope on the humble colt of a fallen hero

light in the anointed sun

a yellow-tinted memory haunts the living

once on a cousin star

bodhisatta beggars wake the soul

and timely hymns reassure

that time is poorly spent in not forgiving

mortal wounds and all

“…time is poorly spent in not forgiving.” What an excellent line. So wise, so true. Thanks to Matthew Galbraith for sending his poem and this graceful reminder of what we, as humans, are capable of achieving in matters of the heart. His book is available for purchase through Amazon.com.

Send poem submissions and correspondence to: ncarpathios@shawnee.edu or Neil Carpathios, Shawnee State University, Dept. of English & Humanities, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).