On how life is not like books

It is not given to most of us to know
the instant’s fiery trial, the two-forked path
from which, once chosen, we cannot turn back.
Life is too messy-incomplete for that,
crammed with uncertainty and second chances.
Integrity comes piecemeal, a dripped succession
of tiny moments where, grudging, agonised,
we choose to act for good,
from love or shame, some half-built value,
a memory, the decent thing. It all adds up.
Then we look back, perhaps, and find
we made the hardest choice by hardly choosing,
and grace is granted us to laugh,
wiser, grateful, and walk on, nearer, now,
the people we were born to be.

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