Gerald So, editor at The 5-2, invited me to highlight one of the crime poems on display there, and it was a little difficult making a choice, but I did it. I teach Intro. to Lit. each semester and this poem by Ray Succre called "Twelve Apologies" might just wind up on the syllabus next year. It would go alongside William Carlos Williams' poem "This is Just to Say." if you haven't read that one, I'll type it out from memory:
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
They were delicious
and so cold.
The ambiguity is palpable and teachable. Succre produces a poem in something of the same vein, but I think my students will enjoy it more. The series of vignettes on petty crimes makes me wonder what brought the narrator to offer these apologies. And I do wonder if the title is a nod to the Twelve Apostles.
Anyway, get to reading.
Mr. Arnolds, my neighbor five years ago: It was me. I'm the
one who ran over your cat. I didn't even see it. I'm sorry that I suggested
your daughter may have done it. I'm sorry.
Jan Arnolds: See above. I'm sorry.
Grandma J.: The coat you bought me last year? The one I
always say I've just taken off whenever you call? I drunkenly lit it on fire
five months ago. I'm sorry.
Amad, my old friend: Remember when I threw that monstrous party
and you passed out, and by morning, some measly person had stolen your
cigarettes and poured soup on your crotch? They gave me some of the cigarettes
not to say anything, and the soup was my idea. I'm sorry.
My ex, Andrea: When I lost my job because of corporate
cutbacks? That was a lie. I told my boss that if she talked to me that way
again, I'd piss on her head. She fired me. I'm sorry.
Bookstore On the Bay: It was me. I stole all those books. I
figured out how to remove the magnetic strips, and would do so while chatting
up your clerk. I did this daily. He thought we were pals. I read all of the
books I stole, at least. One a day for almost an entire summer. I'm sorry.
Little Lisa: We only went out for a single day in the
third grade, and we broke-up because I wouldn't give you my pen. Listen, I told
everybody we did it. I'm sorry.
Laurel, a waitress in Olympia, Washington: That guy who stole
my wallet off the counter while I was in the restroom, which made me unable to
pay for my coffee that one time? I didn't own a wallet. I'm sorry.
Safeway of America, Inc.: I was the one who stole Eraserhead. I gave you the
wrong phone number which truly was an accident because I'd just moved into a
new place with a new number, but you didn't check my I.D. and when I was about
to sign the little rental agreement, I noticed the phone number I'd given had
pulled up the first name "Esther", so, quickly and unfortunately for
Esther and your company, I signed it "Antonio Banderas" and never
returned the video. I'm sorry to you and I'm sorry to Esther and I'm sorry to
Mr. Banderas, as well.
To a certain couple: Red fruits don't cause Alzheimer's
disease. I made it up. You can start eating strawberries again. I'm sorry.
To Aaron from sixth grade: Though it’s been twenty years,
I've still got your Nintendo game, Bionic Commando. I convinced you I had
given it back and that you had lost it, but I just hadn't beaten the game yet.
I moved to the other side of the country with it. I'm sorry.
To Kat, a neighbor in a high-rise apartment building I once
resided in: Sixteen years ago, I needed to make a local call and my phone
service had just been disconnected. You had offered to let my use your phone
for local calls. I knocked but you weren't home. Later, I found the telephone
service grid on the second floor, so I spliced into your line with my room's
phone, thinking that it wouldn't really matter as long as I switched it back
when I was done. When I picked up to make my important call, you were home and
you were ordering something on it. The salesclerk couldn't figure out what
ordering number your item was supposed to have, so you had to explain to him
(and though you didn't know it, to me) that it was the jelly-apparatus on some
page 36 . The Rhino II, I think it was called. I didn't mean to overhear it. I
hope everything worked out and I'm sure blue was a wonderful color. I'm sorry.
Want more crime poetry? Try here.