New Year’s Eve

I’m superstitious about resolutions. I always make one for New Year’s and keep it, but I am deeply certain that if I told anyone what it was, or even wrote it down, I would break it right away. So I can’t tell you what mine are, but I will tell you what they are not: they are not about diet or exercise. Ever. The obvious trick to making a resolution you will keep, is to make one you will enjoy keeping. Tedious and unpleasant subjects impose themselves on a new year without any help; no need to encourage them.

Sometimes I leverage a resolution with my annual urge to clean and organize. I get this urge every year, so it’s strange that I continue to find things I can’t believe I didn’t already throw out. Apparently uselessness takes a few cycles to register.

New Year’s Eve was very big in the Pasadena area, where I used to live. There was no post-Christmas let-down, because everyone was busy all week sticking roses into tiny vials, gluing chrysanthemums onto faux cartwheels, and giving directions to lost visitors.

On New Year’s morning we often went out to watch the parade live, but sometimes we were too tired. One of those New Years led me to write this poem.


January First, From Pasadena

On New Year’s morning we wake
to the sound of airplanes over the house.
The children run outdoors
and read the sky for us: Happy New Year
From 31 Flavors. We yawn and stretch.
They watch the parade on television.
Network coverage ends in time
for us to hear the groan of real drums
muffling up the canyon from the park,
where sixty flower-covered fantasies
of a thousand high-school girls
who couldn’t babysit for me last night
are pulling into numbered spots,
the end of the line, to lose their flowers
slowly to the crowd.
The logo of a finance company
tangles in our trees;
lost messages smudge the sky
like last year’s resolutions.
I feel my yearly impulse to clean house.
Raising all the windowshades,
I start with the sky.

(first published in Seneca Review)



Yesterday we had a long snowfall, hours of it floating peacefully by the window as I finished making Christmas presents and packed them up to mail. I have no idea whether indigenous Alaskans have hundreds of different words for snow or not, but judging by what fell past my window, they should have. It varied from almost gritty fineness to fat puffs; from white to grey; from sparse to heavy. It varied in how fast it built up, how much it blew around, and how much in glittered in reflected light.

It did not vary in how deeply happy it made me. Sitting in this chair, at this window,


blue morning snow

I have seen the hundreds of narcissus I planted blooming in April; the progression of flowers from foxgloves in May to asters in September; the bright leaves of October and the elegant bare branches of November. And now there is the snow, decorating the last standing seedheads and smoothing all things low and rough into voluptuous cushions. I put on my big coat full of feathers and took a little walk in it, leaving the packages to be mailed in the morning.

It is that morning now, the snow no longer falling and the roads all plowed.

deer tracks

deer tracks

The sun’s not over the pinetrees yet, the light soft and blue. Looking out the window I can see where the deer have foraged among those standing seedheads. Much as I complain about the deer, I hope they found something to eat.