At About This Hour

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.