That was the year we lived five flights up,
The year we gave the La-Z-Boy away,
The year we locked the keys in the U-Haul
At midnight, in Abilene, Kansas,
Where the one locksmith had just died,
And his widow, half-asleep on the phone,
Kept crying, Sorry. That year our Christmas tree
Was a potted ficus, hung with blown-glass bells
Silent and weightless as breath on a window.
That year we lay in bed, holding each other
Without speaking as the time-and-temp sign
Outside flashed its arctic digital numbers
All night across our flannel comforter.
That year you turned 30. That year our throats
Went dry before we’d finished swallowing,
And at night the sprinklers’ cold knee-high rainfall
Hissed, wasted, down storm drains. That year
The lady next door tended our potted chives.
She said, Grass won’t grow without water.
That was the year July turned so hot,
Days flung themselves like burning moths
Against the windows, and the way you slurped
Your morning coffee made me want to shoot you.
That year I spent months crocheting a green
Muffler, then forgot how to crochet.
Even now, these things remain so sharply drawn:
The light’s gray shape on the wall
Above the bed. The dark birthmark stain
On the carpet, where some other tenant had
Spilled wine? Tea? Coffee? Something else? –
Some answers you don’t want to hear.
That was the year we asked some right questions,
The year of beginnings, the as-if endless year
We let go thinking we could call it back.
This poem first appeared, under a different title and at an earlier stage of revision (because I am an obsessive tinkerer, or else I just send stuff out unfinished), in the British poetry journal Seam, to whose editors grateful acknowledgment is due.
Posting will be light and sporadic over the next few days, but I wanted to say this:
Happy New Year, and God's blessings, from all of us to all of you.