Weights and Measures
The 2015 New Year’s Eve Poem
Again, we arrive at the time too familiar.
The day which seems to come around
more often than the others as we age.
The moment when – with or without a kiss –
we pick up the year and turn it this way and that
inside the thorny landscape of our mind.
We study it from every angle,
attempting to calculate the significance
of our latest lap around the sun.
We always feel an urgency, but it’s not a race.
We all hit the final mark at the same hour,
save for those who already received the tap on the shoulder,
the order to store their running shoes under the bed for the last time.
But how can one quantify the magnitude of moments past?
Some measure a year’s worth by accomplishments:
Hiking across the country.
The first kiss.
The new home.
Facing the abuser and saying, “No”.
Learning to live alone.
The big promotion.
The self-mutilation kit retired.
Others crunch the numbers of hard knocks and injuries sustained:
Six months unemployed.
Two bone fractures.
Twenty-three rejection slips.
Four teeth pulled.
One broken heart.
Those who weigh their failures sink beneath the load:
Not standing up for the bullied kid.
The refusal to admit guilt.
The uneaten bag of broccoli in the fridge, which was thrown out and replaced by pizza, which was replaced by cookie dough, which was replaced by defeat.
The loss of nerve at the critical moment.
The words you didn’t say as they walked out of your life.
And then there are the fans of the in-between,
who compute using the mathematics of minutiae:
The duck crossing the dirt road.
Sunlight peeking through the willows on a breezy afternoon.
The toddler falling facedown in the sand.
The sounds of Chopin, grand as God, sailing from the speakers during the long drive.
The smell after the storm.
The wailing of a distant train at 2 a.m.
The time he held your face in both of his hands.
The moment I began to unravel.
That one, I have trouble recalling.
I’ve never been a disciple of the calendar or the clock, the yardstick or the scales.
I prefer joules.
Energy, passion, and a defiantly struck match.
Tonight, I’ve set my life on fire.
First to go were the mementos: photos, postcards, ticket stubs, letters.
Then everything. Disappointments, dreams, disasters. That which served and didn’t serve.
Flames licking everything from this current confusion back to the cradle.
A towering inferno 40 years high.
I dash into the night, away from the glowing wreckage.
The house burnt down baby.
Now I can see the stars.
I fly into the future, into the darkness of the unknown.
Don’t look back.
You can never look back.
I am the fastest and bravest thing in the forest.
I am resilient.
I am weightless.
I am Hope – the small, strong animal that stubbornly refuses to die.
— Jenn Howe,
December 31st, 2015