I don’t know which is more painful: platitudes or silence. Platitudes are those things that are said to fill up space. They are safe, risk nothing and have little to no impact. A platitude is a trite, meaningless prosaic statement uttered or written with the delivery as if it is a sincere and unique thought. The key is that a platitude is meaningless. It risks nothing and promises even less. Think Miss Manners with a lobotomy. I find platitudes plentiful in the passive, the meek, and a “go to” arsenal for emotional cowardice. Platitudes put an end to conflicting thoughts and feelings by creating an illusion of resolution. The master of the platitude is the master of avoidance. In this poem, I link a series of platitudes into a conversation of nothingness.
He paused before he said, “Have a nice day,”
and then felt the need to add, “I’ll always be there for you.”
Because of course it sounded good and he only wished her the best.
“C'est la vie,” she whispered under her breath,
knowing that was probably not what he would want to hear.
She walked away, lengthening her stride
because after all the strong always pull through.
For months she heard voices chanting “Such is life.
You’ll be fine, after all time will tell.”
He prayed to his patron saint believing it to be God’s will.
She laughed, “I have news for you: karma’s a bitch.
Keep your ‘Namaste’ to yourself because
it is what it is. After all it’s in the past.”
For both of them perception was reality.
On his knees he remembered her saying,
“You will be saved if you just save yourself,”
although she didn’t really believe in such things or
in the promise that someone will someday share her pain.
She told herself to “Just breathe and simply live and let live.
Don’t dwell on it, because of course it wasn’t meant to be.”
What did he say? Own it and move on. You have to move on.
What else did he say? This too shall pass. Your time will come.
Patience is a virtue. We all have problems.
It can’t be that bad. Nothing is impossible.
Time heals all wounds, so get on with your life.
Happiness is a choice. Something will turn up.
It’s for your own good. Keep a stiff upper lip.
Tomorrow’s another day. Tomorrow will be better.
And just at the point she thought she would scream
he added, “You deserve better, but don’t let it eat at you.
Don’t let it bother you; try looking on the bright side.
It’s not rocket science. Everything’s going to be OK.
You just need some sleep. Everything happens for a reason.
There’s plenty of fish in the sea. You’ll thank me for this one day.
You just need to believe in yourself. One day you’ll see things differently.”
She could only say “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
And then reminded herself to let it slide off her back.
The best she could do is to take it one day at a time,
because after all no good deed goes unpunished.
This was just a bump in the road and if you knew what she knew,
you’d think differently. Just don’t think about it and
perhaps one day you’ll see things differently.
He finally said what he had been wanting to say,
“You just need to get over it, because
No matter what you do, it’s always something.
We all have to do things we don’t want to do.
You’ll be better off for this, you just have to try a little harder.
Embrace your limitations, because it all comes out in the wash.”
And all she could think was if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012
If I can’t have the truth, then please don’t give me platitudes. For me the alternative: silence, even with its stillness and cold shoulder, is indeed golden.