Yale Class of 1975

Poetry Project, Week 12

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

— Dana Gioia

Chris Donnelly: I have remained challenged about what sort of poem I should send along. As I think I indicated, poetry has not really been my thing. It is not that I don’t read poems – I do – I just haven’t done a lot to incorporate them into my being. This, despite a high school project involving reading the poems of John Milton with a very quirky and particular Jesuit and a college-age interest in TS Eliot. So, I went to the two books of poems that I have on my bookshelf – A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czelaw Milosz and Good Poems, selected by Garrison Keillor. The first included a lot of very interesting poetic moments – many translations from different cultures and different times far from today. As a way of getting reflected glimpses from far away – very profound but not necessarily poetic, in the sense of poetry also being a disciplined approach to the use of words. The Keillor collection is much more eclectic and even a bit quirky itself. In it I found a poem that seemed to fit what I was after – a glimpse of something not necessarily profound but likely common to all of us in some way that also shows the discipline of poetry. Here it is.