13 July 2012

summer storm {a poem, not by me}

I had already planned on posting this poem today—and then a summer storm just rolled in. All afternoon, even the air in this office felt charged, expectant, wanting.

We all wanted rain: the brown grass, the dying trees, people I ran past this morning at 6:00 {all of us sweating more than could be healthy}.

And here it is, just when I wanted it most and just when I had the right poem to post: "Summer Storm" by Dana Gioia.

One line in this poem is almost always with me—the last one. It hits on, in so few words, the what ifs we can torture ourselves with.

Or the what ifs that can come when we don't ask them to, and we convince ourselves that if only there had been a different decision back at that decision point—why life would have a whole different feel.

And it would be different, but different doesn't equal better. Or worse, for that matter. It just equals different, and what is it about a summer storm that reminds me of this idea?

It's the changeability of it all: what began as a sunny, sweaty day is now turning into a night when I want to do nothing more than curl up on the couch. How quickly things can change; how can we expect to keep up with all the possibilities?

And that's what this poem is saying to me today.

Summer Storm

We stood on the rented patio
While the party went on inside.
You knew the groom from college.
I was a friend of the bride.

We hugged the brownstone wall behind us
To keep our dress clothes dry
And watched the sudden summer storm
Floodlit against the sky.

The rain was like a waterfall
Of brilliant beaded light,
Cool and silent as the stars
The storm hid from the night.

To my surprise, you took my arm—
A gesture you didn't explain—
And we spoke in whispers, as if we two
Might imitate the rain.

Then suddenly the storm receded
As swiftly as it came.
The doors behind us opened up.
The hostess called your name.

I watched you merge into the group,
Aloof and yet polite.
We didn't speak another word
Except to say goodnight.

Why does that evening's memory
Return with this night's storm—
A party twenty years ago,
Its disappointments warm?

There are so many might have beens,
What ifs that won't stay buried,
Other cities, other jobs,
Strangers we might have married.

And memory insists on pining
For places it never went,
As if life would be happier
Just by being different.

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