Everyone except Julie was dancing badly,
and I was sitting there watching with Tom
who had a broken ankle for his excuse.
Mary would be leaving in the morning.
I didn’t know how she felt. Or for that matter
how I might be feeling from one moment
to the next—sometimes happier
than I’d expect, walking down a path
bordered by pines, sometimes bleaker
than I could attach any reason to.
Then people decided they’d go swimming,
and I headed back to my room. The air
was close and fragrant: no stars,
a little lightning far off to the east
that hadn’t a chance of reaching us. Things
would settle down. I could hear the traffic
on the Northway as I heard it every night
unless I forgot to listen. “It’s better
if you go to Italy and do something there,”
Carolina had said at dinner. At another table
Andy exclaimed: “They gave me a hat!
I have the hat to this day.” People laughed.
And then someone whose name I can’t recall
asked someone else: “Why do you want
to remember the past?” And I thought:
Do we have a choice? Doesn’t it just return?
In a few days I’d be gone, but maybe
one night at about this hour I’d stop
and think back. Would I wish
I were here?—the party over, the lightning
fading away beyond the mountains,
and on the road all those travelers—
so many destinations ahead of them,
so many chances of arriving unharmed.
Lawrence Raab is the author of seven poetry collections, including What We Don’t Know About Each Other, winner of the National Poetry Series, and a finalist for the National Book Award, The Probable World, Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems, and his latest collection, The History of Forgetting, all published by Penguin. He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.