The Reparation Room


The Reparation Room

he acted as if I owed him something

for the way he was treated as a child

by someone I didn’t know

in a city I’ve never been in

because I was old white guy

I was the one to blame

I was the one who had to dig down

to make it up to him

money wasn’t going to cut it

he wanted to see me hurt

as much as he had been hurt

there was no way to defuse this anger

to step back from the situation

no way was I capable of making him feel whole

was his trade off

the memory of his pain

in return for the memory

of the pain he might inflict upon me

how many times

would he have to seek this opportunity

how many times would he have to strike out

before he realized causing pain

never removes the pain one feels

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

hitting out spitting out taking it out

till it would finally consume him

I don’t know how to lead him out of this cage

can’t tell him he’s a slave

to a problem I didn’t cause

I refuse to be held responsible for it

yet cannot deny his right

to seek some sort of reparation

for his past

I’m not the one to apologize

not the one to pull out my wallet to pay him off

I have to witness his struggle

acknowledge it

know that I can’t undo

what has been done

try not to add to it in any way

but it seems no matter what I do

I add to it

just being present brings it all back to him

not being present

seems to him like I’m hiding out of guilt

neither of us can leave the room


Each year for Loyalist I have put together a flyer to give away – tax-deductible, elaborate business card. Usually the piece I pick is either an amusing poem, or a chilling flash fiction. This year I opted for a non-humorous poem & choose The Reparations Room.

The piece has, I think, an emotionally complex story to tell, and does so without melodrama or even without pulling back from the core issue – dealing with the damage in others without judging or getting enmeshed in it either.


There is some truth to the piece but it is not confessional. I know many people on both sides of the Reparation. The damaged who often get hurt when their friends can’t deal with them – it’s not as if us ordinary folks are trained professionals – yet they expect friends to deal with stuff that they, the damaged, can’t understand themselves.

I know those on the other side caught in people pleasing, helping and feeling guilty & frustrated because they can’t fix, or backing away because they get fed up with being blamed for things they had no part in.


The flyer photo is one I took some time ago at one of my brain rentals. I loved the empty bigness of this room that had these few plants on the window.  The other photos are from the same shoot.


One thought on “The Reparation Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.