“Regret” by Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann

re•gret (r-grt) 1. (Verb) To remember with a sense of sadness: Her son, a soldier, always said it is better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do. And there were nights when she would regret in the form of a list—regret not uttering I love you enough, regret not having been able to stay up into the blue hours to help with his homework, regret having watched his ship sail off without having once declared what she really believed. 2. (Verb) To feel sorry, disappointment: The politician on TV taunting the camera. Saying, I don’t know if I regret these things I’ve done. Saying, Freedom does not regret. Saying, Maybe the time I said, “Bring it on you Godless heathens,” they took that as a challenge, maybe an insult. But I’m still not sure if that’s something I should regret. 3. (Noun) A sense of dismay, rue: She wonders, if freedom has no regret, what does? Does a cruise missile feel regret? Does the car wired to burst into flames feel regret? What about the bombed orphanage? The ambush in the alley? Does the sand of the desert understand regret any better than the men ordered to march across it? 4. (Verb) To feel a sorrowful longing: Although she remembers anguish, she can barely remember the way the letter began—We regret to inform you… We regret to bring you this news… We deeply regret that we…

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006


Matthew Olzmann: “There’s a feeling you get when someone says something and you come up with the perfect response twenty minutes later. I began writing because I constantly felt like there was something else I should’ve said, or could’ve said better—very similar to Wallace Steven’s idea that ‘Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.’”