Regret looks backward, wishing nothing more
than to undo what has been said and done,
to choose with eyes the years have made wiser
if placed before the same crossroads again.

What difference could a second have made?
What destiny could a moment have unfurled?
But time flows onwards sweeping in its tides
the paths not chosen, the future untold.

What seductive thoughts! These what-could-have-beens,
they drive the mind to endless imaginings
about an idealized existence
where will and chance satisfy one’s yearnings.

Yet here we are, living the life we’re given
Salvation is right in this life we’re in.

Happy new year to you all. 😀  I guess I started the year thinking about what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. That is thanks to Merrill’s prompt for DVerse Poets’ Pub’s Poetics Tuesday – Time and What If.  Do visit the pub and read fabulous responses from pub patrons.  Join in the fun, too,  when you get the chance. 😀


28 thoughts on “WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

  1. love your reflections Imelda, this life is the important one, and we can live it right. your poem gives me much encouragement – a very blessed new year to you!

  2. Hi Imelda. This was well written and very enjoyable to read. Nicely crafted!

    I do have one point of difference, I do not believe we are living the life we are given, because that infers we are not responsible for the life we are living, and thevway we live it – that we are somehow victims and disempowered. I do not hold this to be true.

    Things may happen in life that we don’t control, but how we choose to live in response, to things both good and bad, is completely our decision. I did not choose to be born an orphan. I did not choose to have multiple heart attacks. I did not choose to have brittle diabetes. I most certainly did not chose for my 18-year-old son Aaron to be tragically killed. However, I do chose precisely how I will live with all these facts of my life. Mine is the life I have created from these things, not one given yo me. We ultimately live the life we have chosen to live, in the manner we have chosen to live it.

    Sorry if I pontificated, but my feathers ruffle to anything that represents that human beings are disempowered. That is just my strongly held perspective developed over my 71 years on this planet.

    Happy New Year to you Imelda!! May 2019 bring you joy and peace. 🙂

    1. Hi, Rob. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Aha! You made me think more deeply about what I wrote and my own thoughts about life.

      I agree with the philosophy you just expressed. We are responsible for our lives, and we are responsible for the choices we make, and for the responses we give to situations dealt us. I also agree that there are situations beyond our control.

      So, I suppose that our only bone here is the word ‘given’. I hope I can suitably defend it (ah, it has been a long time since I had to defend a position, if I may call it that.) 😀

      First, line 13 where the word was used was meant to be a counterpoint to the running theme in the first three stanzas which was essentially wishing for a what-could-have-been that might have led to a happier state of things. In this line and in ten syllables, I wished to convey that “oh look! Isn’t it a wonder that of the many possible results of an action or event, the life we have is what we have” idea. The last line, on the other hand, proposed that we need not look at an imagined alternate reality to have a happy life or to have whatever it is we are looking for. Fulfillment, hope, etc. is where we already are.

      Second, life is truly a gift. I did not have to exist. But somehow, whatever happened way back led to me being born. And somehow, I am still in this world. It is a marvel for me. That I breathe, that I experience this very moment, is a gift. Life may be difficult sometimes, but it does not become any less a gift.

      Third, look at our life in general. True, we are largely responsible for shaping our lives. Our choices, our dreams, etc. shaped our respective lives’ direction. But those choices did not happen in a vacuum. They considered the world, or the life at large, around us. Many of those choices are also reactions to things that are beyond our control. Those things, the things that are not of our doing and the unforeseen consequences of our decisions, among others, are patt of life, too. If we did not cause them to happen, then that must be something that was dealt/given us.

      I can see how my choice of words can imply a lack of responsibility for our life. To cover that, I think the verb ‘living’ as used in line 13 is broad and dynamic enough the unique ways by which people carry on with their own lives.

      Having said all that, if I can think of a better way to say what I wanted to say in the couplet, I am open to editing the lines.

      1. I agree with the word given, philosophically and phonetically. It rhymes so softly in the final couplet, “given”. and “we’re in.” We make choices about our life, but we do not make choices about all aspects of our life, as you say, so much about our life is a gift or a challenge that is our lot, but we can choose what we do within the boundaries of happenstance or design. Like Frodo, we can wish not to have been born to see such times, but as Gandalf kindly counsels, it is not given to us to choose our time, but to choose what we do with the time we are given. So don’t give in on “given” it is perfect and beautiful and is a perfect little rhyme that anchors the ear to the central point of this nice poem. 👍🏻

      2. Ah, here I am, always responding late to comments. I am very sorry for that. Thank you very much for your perspective. 🙂 Life truly is what we do with the gift given us and the gift that has been given us. To live, first there should be that gift of life.

  3. So true! Roads not taken will be mysteries forever, and not necessarily better. All those “what if’s” are weightless now. I enjoyed your poem, Imelda. Happy New Year! 🙂

  4. A well crafted poem, Imelda! Though I do agree with Rob that we do not live the life we’re given, but that we make choices (even if sometimes the choice we make is not to choose). Still, it is fun to speculate about the what ifs. 🙂

  5. we can all speculate about the what ifs—but in the end, we live in the moment, born out of our choices. Specially like this part:

    But time flows onwards sweeping in its tides
    the paths not chosen, the future untold.

    Happy new year!

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