Unforgiven Etymology

This is part of a series I’ve been working on regarding etymologies and the language of power in all its forms—empire, capital, etc.

FORGIVE—from the Old English forġiefan, meaning “give, grant, allow;
           remit (a debt), pardon (an offense),” all actions placing
           power in the hands of the harmed, though rarely, in fact,
           does it reside there: to have been harmed at all,
           one must have been done unto, existed as subject
           to another’s active action. Remit comes from
           the Latin remittere, meaning “to send back,”
           & pardon from perdonare, “to give up
           completely” — & does that seem fair? Fair
           from fæger, first meant to mean not equitable or just,
           but instead “pleasing to the eye,”
           perhaps a day devoid of rain, or a face
           pale as lace or linen. Is forgiveness fair?
           It certainly pleases certain eyes. It untroubles
           the weather, eases storms into silence,
           but is it beautiful to send back power, to give it
           up completely? & to ask for forgiveness,
           is that fair, too, or simply white? To strike
           with one hand & reach out the other asking
           for its power to once more be given, granted, allowed?
           Let us remember sorry, at its source, comes not from sorrow,
           but sore, the Old English sār, “ache, wound.”
           If sorry is a wound, then forgiveness is its scar,
           but the wrong body bears it. Scars aren’t fair;
           people avert their eyes from those who forgive
           too easily & often, a forgivable action, done unto.
           Under the laws of language, all actions can be
           forgiven, & people, too, but there is no word
           for a person who chooses to forgive. There is
           a wound, though. A debt remains.

Jaz Sufi (she/hers) is a mixed race Iranian-American poet and arts educator. Her work has been published or is upcoming in the Adroit Journal, AGNI, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Muzzle, and elsewhere. She is a National Poetry Slam finalist and has received fellowships from Kundiman, the Watering Hole, and New York University, where she received her MFA. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Apollo.



Stumbling Blocks on the Mission Center’s Basketball Court, Tamara Kreutz
We fool around in the sauna, Daniel Brennan
Unforgiven Etymology, Jaz Sufi
How it Began, Jana-Lee Germaine
A Sonnet for My Moon Baby, Claire Zhou
Necromancy, Muiz Ajayi
Hot Girl Prayer, Sahara Sidi


Afterimage, Santiago Márquez Ramos
Trigger Warning, Caitlyn Hunter
A Pure Catastrophe, Zaynab Hassan
Dreamy and Content, Katie Quach
The Art of Planting Flowers, Amara Okolo


Internal Battle, Britnie Walston
Pop Machine, Richard Lingo
Bleed, Elizabeth Yuan
After the Squirrels Have Feasted—What Remains 2, Karen Pierce Gonzalez