After the Storm
Soft yellow-gray light of early morning,
butter and wool,
the two bedroom windowns
still beaded and streaked with rain.
The world calm again, routine with traffic,
after its night of convulsions,
when storm drains closed at the throat,
and trees shook in the wind like the hair of dryads.
In the silent house, its roof still on,
too early for the heat to come whistling up
and the guest room doors still closed,
I am propped up on these pillows,
a gray, moth-eaten cashmere jersey
wrapped around my neck
against the unbroken cold of last night.
I am thinking about the dinner party,
the long table, dark bottles of Merlot,
the odd duck and brussels sprouts,
and how, after midnight,
with all of us sprawled on the couch and floor,
the power suddenly went out
leaving us to feel our way around
in the tenth-century darkness
until we found and lit a stash of candles
then drew the circle of ourselves a little lighter
in this softer hula of lights
that gleamed in mirrors and on rims of glasses
while the shutters banged and the rain lashed down.
A sweet nut of a memory–
but the part that sends me whirring
in little ovals of wonder,
as the leftover clouds break apart
and the sun brightly stripes these walls,
is the part that came later,
hours after we had each carried a candle
up the shadowy staircase and gone to bed.
It was three, maybe four in the morning
when the power surged back on,
and, as if a bookmark
had been inserted into the party
when the lamps went dark,
now all the lights downstairs flared again,
and form the stereo speakers
up through the heat register
into our bedroom and our sleep
blared the sound of Jimmy Reed
singing “Baby What You Want Me to Do”
just where he had left off.
So the party resumed without us,
the room again aglow with a life of its own,
the night air charged
with guitar and harmonica,
until one of us put on slippers,
went down to that blazing, festive emptiness,
and turned everything off.
Then, without lights or music,
even the ghosts of ourselves
had to break up their party,
snub out their cigarettes,
carry their wineglasses to the kitchen,
where they kissed each other good night,
and with nowhere else to go,
floated vaguely upstairs
to lie down beside us in our dark and quiet beds.
I’ve long been a fan of Renoir’s work, particularly this painting and I always suspected this party lasted long after the boat docked. Perhaps turning into some kind of rager at the lakeside home of one of the participants. I was introduced to Billy Collins in a poetry seminar in college. This poem is from his collection Picnic, Lightning. We studied it along with other poets in addition to writing our own poetry. Shortly after that semester, Billy Collins was named Poet Laureate of the US. When I chose this pic, this poem immediately popped into my head. I am pretty sure that after that raucous boat party that went indoors, something like this would happen…anyway. I hope you all enjoy this beautiful picture and lovely poem.