Aug. 13, 2002

Summer Storm

by Dana Gioia

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Poem: "Summer Storm," by Dana Gioia and used with the author's permission.

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.

Construction of the Berlin Wall began in the early hours of August 13, 1961. The communist East German government built it to stem the flood of people moving to the West-about 2 million since WWII ended. By the time it fell in 1989, it was a 15-foot-high wall running 28 miles through the middle of Berlin, topped with barbed wire and guarded with watchtowers and mines. Another set of walls ran 75 miles around West Berlin, separating it from the rest of East Germany.

On August 13, 1942, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin wrote to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, begging them to reverse their decision and to invade western Europe. Stalin's beleaguered Russian army had been contending with a German invasion for over a year. It wasn't until two years later, on D-Day, that a million Allied soldiers flooded into France.

It's the birthday in London, 1899, of director Alfred Hitchcock. He went to school to become an engineer, but got a job in 1920 with a London film company writing out titles. He got his first shot at directing in 1925 and later moved to Hollywood. Within a year his film Rebecca had won an Oscar for best picture.

It's the birthday in 1818, West Brookfield, Massachusetts, of the abolitionist and women's suffrage pioneer Lucy Stone. She paid her own way through Oberlin College, and then went on the lecture circuit arguing against slavery and for women's rights. In December 1858, in Orange, New Jersey, she refused to pay her taxes because women didn't have the right to vote.

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