Participation Proclamation

‘It’s not about winning

But taking part’

This is what we’re told as kids

We grow up, conducting our lives

By the participation proclamation

Marching to this decree

As though hard work is the key,

Believing that trying

Gets you somewhere.

(No matter if it isn’t where you want to be)


But nobody warned you

That when sandcastles morph

Into debt

And hopscotch to

Scotch whisky,

That when you fall in love

Coming second -close second- doesn’t count.

Second place is more pain,

No gain,

The main source of your agony,

And ‘at least you tried’ doesn’t cut it.

Reality is one cruel bitch

Who doesn’t take orders from the stars,

No matter how hard you wish it.


The silver medal becomes

The brand of failure,

The dunce’s cap on the child’s head.

And your eyes will give the game away

As you watch the gold plated girl

From your lesser platform.

‘Poor form

But great sport!’

Onlookers cheer from the sidelines,

Misreading your tears

As you mentally add up the years

You have wasted.


But politeness – you were told-

Is always best,

So you’ll smile at day and

Cry at night,

to salvage others from awkwardness.

You handle grief with political correctness,

You make it an art.

And so who can blame him

When he picks up the phone

To tell you he has fallen in love?

It’s ignorance not callousness

That will make him ignore the breath

That catches in your throat,

As instead

He listens for the obligatory

‘I’m so happy for you.’

So you choke down your own words:

The staple diet of a best friend.


You’ll wonder who to tell about

Your egotistic dreams.

It was painfully pompous

To imagine you’d come first

And painstakingly obvious

That you never would.

You wonder what it’s like

To be a girl of firsts.

His first flutter

and stutter,

and kiss,

The first person he sees in the morning,

The first this.

The first that.

The first everything.

The genesis of his experience.

Arrogance and intangibility combined.

Instead you are his exodus;

His safe place when he is extradited.


And you’ll lie at night

trying not to think of her arms around him

And when he asks you for advice,

You’ll play matchmaker

Rather than risk-taker

And you’ll be the idiot that

Helps choose

A ring, a speech, a wife.


Yes, it’s not the winning

But the taking part

That counts.

And you never even entered the game.


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