January 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
The year the world didn’t end, but showed us how it’s done.
The year the word “superstorm” was used more often than “superstar.”
The year a black man was re-elected President
The year Charles moved back from Florida
The year I realized how lucky I was
The year I was still heartbroken
The year wicked stepsister Lola came to join my pampered cats
The year Mouchette moved into my bedroom
The year the kitty litter moved into my bedroom
The year I started thinking about when Medicare will kick in
The year Mouchette had 13 teeth removed
The year read my poems in public for the first time in 35 years
The year I baked a lot of pies
The first year of my adult life in which I did not have sex
The year I stopped worrying about that
The year our credit card debt surpassed our income
The year Charles was finally happy, playing guitar all day
The year I decided if they want my apartment, they’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands
The year I didn’t kill myself, after all
“You’re not going to kill yourself. You’re stronger than dirt.”—Philip Russo, January 2012
How strong is dirt? It endures, yes, but it just lies around, becoming soil, creating dust, actualizing the ground of being. Dirt enfolds. It nurtures, keeping seeds safe in the dark, then encouraging the thready roots to move through as they will, toward sun, water, each other. Plants talk. Dirt is their language. A fine element, no question, but a woman as strong as dirt—if she doesn’t kill herself, what does that mean?
That she knows the names of the dead
That she finds the doll in the coffin and the bullets in the poet
That her brain holds lost cities of antiquity
That she still lingers under the bed
That she’s as dirty as a street orphan
That she’s as dirty your most secret fantasy
That just because you walk all over her doesn’t mean she’s forgotten the concept avalanche
That someday she’ll fill your ears and mouth and nostrils
That she commands an army of beetles
She is perfectly ordinary, a cashmere scarf
snugly wrapped around her neck. She is
a middle age that is crisp, appealing in New York.
She is a brain surgeon or a designer of blowdryers.
I know this because I am in her skin this morning
riding the bus, happy to be not young, happy to be
thrilled that it is cold and I have a warm hat on.
Everyone is someone other than you think
under her skin. The driver does not have
a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his metal
lunchbox. He has caviar left over from New Year’s
and a love note from his mistress, whom he just left
on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.
When she steps off his bus to take over the wheel
of the crosstown No. 8, she knows she is anything
but ordinary. She climbs under the safety bar
and straps the belt on over her seat. She lets
the old lady who is rich but looks poor take her time
getting on. She lets the mugger who looks like
a parish priest help her. She waits
as we sit, quiet
in our private, gorgeous lives.