Over the last few blogs I’ve engaged in a dialogue over youth and old age. This poem of Elizabeth Smither’s is an apt summary - the later ample and satisfied years, covetous while at the same time rather smug at the recall of youthful enthusiasm. We all have in various symbolic forms our red dresses, exiled by time and experience from that younger self with its sense of promise and expectation.
When I was young I bought
uncompleted things: records
without a record player
a dress without shoes.
I could not let the impulse go
the red dress, the Enesco rhapsody
Beethoven's Ninth with Toscanini
a silver sheath that needed strappy shoes.
Half of the purchase at least was hope:
the red dress might sweep someone off their feet
(without shoes). The sheath shine
like moonlight across a crowded room.
Now I hesitate and match. No CD
is unplayed and gathers dust
in a box under a bed. I'm not saving for
a recording of the last quartets.
And yet, and this is my regret
the hesitancy leads to something less:
complete, useful, well- accomplished
but nothing like the daring of my red dress.