Saturday, January 01, 2005

Second Person

You don't like New Year's Day. It chafes, like a stiff collar. It wants to exact something from you. Promises. Resolutions. You will abjure this and embrace that. It nudges you and pushes paper and pencil your way. "Write," it demands. So "5 am," you write, "rise." You gnaw the pencil for a moment. "5:10," you continue, all the way to "11:00, sleep." A salubrious day unfolds in graphite -- a day infused with fiats from the 10 Commandments to the 16 Precepts, from Benedict's Rule to the Bodhisattva Vows. A masterpiece of a day that gives equal attention to body, mind and spirit. Billowing with good intentions, you sail into your day.

Come evening, you glance at the clock. 5 PM. You check the crisp list taped to your computer monitor. The dregs of your fifth cup of coffee cool at your elbow. The laundry is undone, the litterboxes unscooped, the books unread, the poems unwritten. You have said "fuck" three times. You have forgotten your vitamins. Your devotions. Your ablutions. You lower your eyes.

The final lines of two famous poems occur to you, lines you still tend to confuse. First, James Wright, lying in the hammock --

I have wasted my life.

then, Ranier Maria Rilke, gazing at the archaic torso of Apollo --

You must change your life.

-- lines that are the heads and tails of the same hazarding coin.

And you laugh, a tad uneasily, as you pull the list down and pencil in an epigraph. "After all," you write, "it's just another day."

You reflect a moment. Your hands and feet are cold. A flock of small distresses rises in you like birds startled out of their thicket. The nights are long. The winter has only begun. The world is wracked by catastrophe and war.

Sobered, you cross out "just."

You even bow.

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