This spring, you’d swear it actually gets dark earlier.
At the elegant new restaurants downtown
your married friends lock glances over the walnut torte:
it’s ten o’clock. The have important jobs
and go to bed before midnight. Only you
walking alone up the dazzling avenue
still feel a girl’s excitement, for the thousandth time
you enter your life as though for the first time,
as an immigrant enters a huge, mysterious capital:
Paris, New York. So many wide plazas, so many marble addresses!
Home, you write feverishly
in all five notebooks at once, then faint into bed
dazed with ambition and too many cigarettes.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, except
really you don’t believe wrinkles mean character
and know it’s an ominous note
that the Indian skirts flapping on the sidewalk racks
last summer looked so gay you wanted them all
but now are marked clearer than price tags: not for you.
Oh, what were you doing, why weren’t you paying attention
that piercingly blue day, not a cloud in the sky,
when suddenly “choices”
ceased to mean “infinite possibilities”
and became instead “deciding what to do without”?
No wonder you’re happiest now
riding on trains from one lover to the next.
In those black, night-mirrored windows
a wild white face, operatic, still enthralls you:
a romantic heroine,
suspended between lives, suspended between destinations.
-- Katha Pollitt
(from Antarctic Traveller, Knopf, 1983)