Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year's Day by Billy Collins

Everyone has two birthdays

according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,

the day you were born and New Year’s Day—

a droll observation to mull over

as I wait for the tea water to boil in a kitchen

that is being transformed by the morning light

into one of those brilliant rooms of Matisse.

“No one ever regarded the First of January

with indifference,” writes Lamb,

for unlike Groundhog Day or the feast of the Annunciation,

New Year’s marks nothing but the pure passage of time,

I realized, as I lowered a tin diving bell

of tea leaves into a little ocean of roiling water.

I like to regard my own birthday

as the joyous anniversary of my existence,

probably because I was, and remain

to this day in late December, an only child.

And as an only child—

a tea-sipping, toast-nibbling only child

in a bright, colorful room—

I would welcome an extra birthday,

one more opportunity to stop what we are doing

for a moment and celebrate my presence here on earth.

And would it not also be a small consolation

to us all for having to face a death-day, too,

an X drawn through a number

in a square on some kitchen calendar of the future,

the day when each of us is thrown off the train of time

by a burly, heartless conductor

as it roars through the months and years,

party hats, candles, confetti, and horoscopes

billowing up in the turbulent storm of its wake.

from the book, "Ballistics," © Random House 2008

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