How could she possibly find the energy she once knew when each and every night began and ended the same way? Oh sure, there might be slight variations on the theme but basically the beat went on, week after week.
Tonight was different. She climbed out of bed when she could no longer stand the dullness, put more wood into the stove, made a cup of tea and moved her chair in front of the sliding glass door to watch the moonlight on the mountains and write a bit. Perhaps later she’d go back to bed and catch a memorable dream.
For years she promised herself this kind of respect; to walk away purposefully and with design from a sleepless night. Instead, she suffered the tedium of endless hours; neither asleep nor mentally, or physically engaged enough to be awake.
She tried prayer. She found the rapport with spirits inspiring but rather one sided thereby bound toward emotional and intellectual collapse. Each dearly departed would drift in, one by one, leave a bit of residual doo then mist off again, nothing substantial. Of course, what could she expect? She stood committed that engaging with ephemeral dust was generally better than overly pinging off the inside of her own head.
And now, it was nearly New Years!
By Bei Dao
Translated By David Hinton and Yanbing Chen
a child carrying flowers walks toward the new year
a conductor tattooing darkness
listens to the shortest pause
hurry a lion into the cage of music
hurry stone to masquerade as a recluse
moving in parallel nights
who's the visitor? when the days all
tip from nests and fly down roads
the book of failure grows boundless and deep
each and every moment's a shortcut
I follow it through the meaning of the East
returning home, closing death's door
"New Year" by Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen, from LANDSCAPE OVER ZERO, copyright © 1995, 1996 by Zhao Zhenkai, Translation copyright © 1995, 1996 by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen. New Directions Publishing Corp.
Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted without the permission of the author, though I'd prefer otherwise. Naomi, this is beautiful work...how might I be in touch to compensate you?
She thought back to last New Year. That was the final time she attempted to entrance him with her "Feminine Mystic Wiles”, her “Hoo-doo Dance of Love Joy.” His drowse proved far more intoxicating than aged thighs working classic Fosse rhythm and jive in tight heels, step sliding to a random selection of Internet Radio. Said in a whisper more like a prayer, “Someone, anyone, we need, Really need live radio, a DJ's musical discretion tonight”
Once again, dust.