... And last, perhaps, as darkness
Begins to infuse the lawns and silent streets
And the remote estuary, and thickens here, you mention
The slamming of a door I wasn’t supposed to know about,
That took years. Each of us circles
Around some simple but vital missing piece of information,
And, at the end, as now, finding no substitute,
Writes his own mark grotesquely with a stick in snow,
The signature of many connected seconds of indecision.
What I am writing to say is, the timing, not
The contents, is what matters. All this could have happened
Long ago, or at least on some other day,
And not meant much except insofar as the eye
Extracts a progress from almost anything. But then
It wouldn’t have become a toy.
And all the myths,
Legends and misinterpretations, would have scattered
At a single pistol shot. And it would no longer know what I know.
-- John Ashbery
from “Fantasia on The Nut-Brown Maid”