New Years Eve

Threshold: A Poem for New Year’s Eve

coin_janus_225-212

As the clock ticks towards midnight

and but for a microsecond I will be between two months, two days, two years,

I realize what Janus must have felt like.

Janus, that god of Roman antiquity

with his two faces:

one, looking into the past;

the other, facing the future.

I find it hard to look backwards with regret

or to glance over my shoulder at sorrow

because like Lot’s wife

I know the dangers of looking back at the burning wreckage:

I feel it each time memory bleeds salt from my eyes.

The severed friendship.

The missed opportunities.

The closing gates of another year gone by

in a body destined for decay.

My mortality

—the knowledge that I am but a speck of dust

star-stuff, but nevertheless, only here for a whisper of celestial time—

ought to guide my gaze towards the year to come with eagerness

or hope, at the very least.

But I find myself, at every moment

on the precipice of the future

desperately trying to perform alchemy

and transform fear into bold curiosity.

We make offerings to soothe our worry:

no figs or honey left at altars

but promises and resolutions,

penned on our calendars

tabula rasa, a fresh slate—

we make incantations to time itself.

Beginnings, endings.

Birth, death.

War, peace.

Open, close:

can we not linger in the doorway,

between two rooms,

for just a moment longer,

even as the bells strike twelve?

Advertisements

auld lang syne.

This is what we believed when we were young: we reveled in the idealism of a fresh slate when at midnight, our cheeks rosy with the flush of too much wine, all was forgiven, and all could begin anew. Our hair tousled and our makeup smeared, runs in our stockings and our ties loosened, we sprawled ourselves in the damp grass of a nearby park, hardly noticing our chilled and shivering skin as we gazed up into the infinite stars.

And how quickly it all fell apart.

How quickly we returned to the glossy idolatry of less weight and more money. How eager we were to believe that we were unworthy of love, that the only fulfillments were the grasping hands of lust and the glittering bands of matrimony and down-payments for real estate. How easily we whispered divinity out of ourselves, how suddenly we preoccupied ourselves with our own turmoil, our mortality, our insufficiencies, our faces in the mirror.

And then, as age and time seeped into our skins, as we greeted the first of the year with bleary eyes and the not-too-distant hums of unpaid bills, leaky faucets, unsatisfying sex lives, the ghosts of loved ones and the ache of this mortal coil, the last drops of the awe and wonder of this last day of the year finally faded into the peeling wallpaper in our parents’ basements.

Hoping to outrun grief and sorrow, knowing its inevitability, we sat with it year-round, swaddling ourselves with its weight. We stared open-mouthed at the wide expanses of absence and loss, not noticing the quivering life that pooled in our hollowed hearts. Resolutions were made. And even as we flung ourselves forth into our good intentions, we knew, quietly, that we would continue to cling to all that pained us. We lovingly crafted self-fulfilling prophecies of unworthiness and emptiness, and found a perverse delight in the predictability and safety of our cocooned lives.

Silently, it made itself known.

The universe cracked open our wounds from within, bursting our fragile flesh at its seams, and we knew God. We knew God as the laughter of children, as the remembrance of those we have lost, as the breath in our lungs, as the kindness of strangers. We knew our own sacredness even as it spilled down our faces in floods of tears.

We recognized that time is both finite and endless, and that the connections that have been lost by circumstance or severed by death are never lost in the depths of our loving memories.

We realized that our bodies held more wisdom and pleasure than we had ever imagined, and we vowed to praise each scar and wrinkle for the beauty of its story.
We embraced compassion as the guiding principle of our lives, no longer determining our relationships to others by a series of projected emotional, sexual, or material returns and gains.

We rejected materialism as a practice, liberating objects instead to function as themselves, instead of surrogates for our insecurities and misplaced desires.

We resolved to free ourselves from the cult of individualism, having known the power of voices raised in protest, in song, and in the chorus of laughter.

Years later, we found ourselves sprawled on the dewy grass at midnight once more, our joints creaking with the heaviness of age, our children’s heads nestled on our soft stomachs, our friends’ or lovers’ or parents’ hands entwined with our own. 

Watching our breath disappear into the night air, the rise and fall of our chests the only certainty we had in that moment, it was enough. It was always enough.