Dear “i am running into a new year”

Image: STELLA © Vincent Fandos, posted at Flickr by Vincent Fandos under a Creative Commons License.

Dear “i am running into a new year”,

The sea is always restless somewhere, and elsewhere, always calm.

You ripple like truth on the tides. This is why I feel certain so many people reach for you, whether – as you yourself say – they are sixteen, twenty-six, thirty-six. You know each of us collects a suitcase full of hurts in each decade, that we refine upon them as the years gyre in us. You know we invent new and strange tides of shamework for ourselves. You remind us that we needn’t live there, not even if shame is our country of origin. Not even if it is the underwater language we were taught at our birth.

“i am running into a new year”, it is a new year. I don’t know what to make of 2023, or what, more accurately, it will make of me. You say with such aching matter-of-factness that old years blow backwards into our hair, like you know I’ve been growing my hair back and deciding what secrets I want it to keep. You have a knowing about you, dear small poem, so pocketable and ready, but not like a handful of sweeties. Pocketable like a living blade that opens the path for you, and a friend. You are the very definition of a friend who helps another by existing. Anyone who puts you in her pocket on this first day of January is inviting a calm sea into herself. I want that for every being who turns to you. I want that for myself, too.

You are, and it feels truthful to say this, a kind of resolution that is both universally gentle and incalculably difficult. You’re gentle because you are asking us to forgive ourselves. You’re difficult because you are asking us to forgive ourselves for our own sakes. Not to be better children, siblings, lovers, partners, workers, citizens. Not even to be better humans… and this is why I reach for you so much on January first, “i am running into a new year”, because you aren’t even necessarily asking anyone to be good. Which is, you know, good, because I’m not sure I can be. Not as a default state of being. Not even as an aspirational platform. I can try my best to be true, which isn’t the same thing, and that is okay, you seem to be saying. The direction in which you are running points towards the truth of oneself. Always restless, and always calm.

P.S. You should know you enjamb so beautifully. Goddamn. You flow into yourself like oxbow lakes serving no masters but tide and time. You wind about your own body, serpentine, ouroboratic in grace and sinuous yessitude. I could move to the rhythms you make every year. I hope to find myself here once more, January first twenty twenty four, to discover more about the body of water I am. Will I be restless? Will I be calm?

P.S.S. ‘Even thirty-six’. Oof. I feel that, you know. I am that, as it so happens. Thirty-six, with growing hair. Thirty-six, with strong fingers. Even at thirty-six, thank you for reminding me of how many forgivenesses I am worth.

Read “i am running into a new year” by Lucille Clifton.