The Word

Out with the old, in with the new. Never have really gotten that. I tend to like the old, or at the very least am stubborn about letting the old go. (Unless we’re talking clutter, because I’m a pro at the toss, to a fault. Don’t let me clean out your garage; there will be nothing left.) I have a strong grip. Stubbornness bestows its graces, but entrenchment and withdrawal do not belong to that number.

I would rather say Stick with the old, but let’s be about transformation.

My offerings to the new year, and my farewell to the old (goodbye sweet 2011, and goodbye one-year free subscription to the New York Times) are two-fold, both forward looking I suppose. One: listen more. To nothing in particular. In the quiet, in the chaos. Two: this one has to do with pleasure and leisure, which the following poem speaks to far better than I can or want to tonight (please don’t sue me Tony Hoagland, for not obtaining permission). I just cleaned the oven; my only date is with some flannel sheets and a warm duvet.

Good night. Good morning. Happy New Year.

The Word

by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

“The Word” by Tony Hoagland, from Sweet Ruin. © University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

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