Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else’s life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day. . .
in ordering our lives, we will discard them,
scrub clean the floorboards of this our home
lest refuse from the lives we did not lead
become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.
And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears– a year laid out like rooms
in a new house–the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be,
we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent
streets, arms full of books and food,
anxious as we always are in winter,
and looking for the Good Life we have made.
I see myself then: tense, solemn,
in high-heeled shoes that pinch,
not basking in the light of goals fulfilled,
but looking back to now and seeing
a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl
in a bare room, full of promise
and feeling envious.
Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward
into the future–as if, when the room
contains us and all our treasured junk
we will have filled whatever gap it is
that makes us wander, discontented
The room will not change:
a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint
won’t make much difference;
our eyes are fickle
but we remain the same beneath our suntans,
dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time,
dreaming our dreaming selves.
I look forward and see myself looking back.
Erica Jong, Autumn Perspective