The Giving Side of No by Thomas Willemain

It’s good to be

on the giving side of no.

When you think you’ve

had enough abuse,

it’s almost fun

to have something

somebody really needs

and to just say



Do that enough times

and you almost

get even

with a world that’s

no’d you

more than it’s known you

ever since you were

denied your first cookie,

first trip to Disney,

first kiss.


If you work hard at it

you can jam up potential

debtors, friends, lovers,

editors and other tyrants,

none the least bit worthy of

a little mercy.


But each and every no,

every single sweet no,

takes a bite out of

your soul

until all that is left

is a primitive, repellent

reflex: no.

By then, the world

has stopped asking you

for anything

and all you can do

is deny what you want

to yourself.

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Tom Willemain

Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is an emeritus professor of statistics, software entrepreneur, and former intelligence officer. He holds degrees from Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poetry has been published in Sheila-Na-Gig, Typishly, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, Panoplyzine and The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics. A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York.

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