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Poetry Pleases: If Only

Miriam McAtee's poem regretfully surveys a lifetime of wishing.

When I was three I used to scream and shout “If only…….”
Older brothers sisters and friends would ask
Why are you always yelling if only?
“If only I were as old as you
and can do everything you do!”
I’d cry.

Then I was five and would still cry “If only…....”
Brothers sisters and friends would ask
Why are you still saying if only?
“I cannot join in and do all that you do”
I’d shout.

At ten I was still grumbling “If only……..”
Everyone asked
Why are you still saying if only?
“Because you go to dances and parties
and I have to go early to bed.”
I’d complain.

When I was eighteen I was still saying “If only…….”
Everyone curiously asked
“Why are you still muttering if only?
“Because you are all married and having fun”
I’d exclaim.

Then I had a husband of my own but still moaned “If only…….”
Everyone couldn’t believe it and asked
Why are you still going on and on about if only?
“Because you all have lovely children
and I as yet have none!”
I’d reply.

At last I had three beautiful girls but still complained “If only……..”
Friends and relations were getting tired of asking
Why are you still crying if only?
“Because I have no boys!”
I’d sigh.

At sixty and wiser now but still yearning “If only……..”
Only a few were now around to ask
Why are you as ever bemoaning if only?
“You still have your husband and children, even grandchildren
but my husband is gone and my children have left!”
I’d wail.

At seventy I still had dreams of yesteryear and whisper “If only…….”
But no one bothers to find out
why I am still wishing for if only.
“It could have been so different if only……..”
I’d silently weep.

Old and frail now I'd like to complain to my companions “If only…….”
but they are too deaf, too old, too weary to ask
why am I always whimpering if only
and there is no way to explain of wishes and dreams
that could have come true if only………

At last I am silent and have learnt to live without “If only……”
But if only
when I was three
someone had told me
there was no “If only………..”


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