This evening I'm remembering the year that ended with my return from San Francisco, me sleeping the last day away on the noisy and noisome Greyhound as it passed through dozens of coastal towns and finally pulled into the old and soon to be closed depot in downtown Los Angeles. Then the local bus home and a quick shower before going to the coffee house on the fringe of Hollywood where a handful of us saw the year change, by the light of nonessential bohemian candles. Some among that group other than myself may be living, but I don't know where they are. Others I now know to be dead. The building itself, a converted bungalow on a quiet side street, was demolished long ago. There is a world I recall which barely exists now, its surviving structures emptied of their former tenants and all time-sea changed.
Well, there it is. This is the day of the year that most provokes nostalgia in me- curse you, Bobby Burns- and each year the nightfall is thronged by larger crowds of ghosts. The older anyone gets, I think, the more likely New Year's Eve is to be for them a time of looking back rather than forward, but I was undoubtedly old before my time. Even that night following my return from San Francisco I was not looking forward to my twentieth year, but back at that gathering crowd of ghosts I had accumulated,a nd to w hich the previous year had added so many.
In fact, I don't remember ever approaching a new year with the anticipation some people experience at this time. That said, I also must acknowledge that this is one of my favorite holidays, and always has been. It's the one time of year when I feel entirely justified in indulging (even overindulging) myself in the vice of nostalgia- thanks, Bobby Burns- which I enjoy probably more than I ought.
So, for those anticipating what is to come, Happy New Year, and for those, like myself, perusing vanished times, Happy Returns.
Very Late Sunday Verse
by Mark Strand
There is the sleep of my tongue
speaking a language I can never remember--
words that enter the sleeep of words
once thay are spoken.
There is the sleep of one moment
inside the next, lengthening the night,
and the sleep of the window
turning the tall sleep of trees into glass.
The sleep of novels as they are read is soundless
like the sleep of dresses on the warm bodies of women.
And the sleep of thunder gathering dust on sunny days
and the sleep of ashes long after.
The sleep of wind has been known to fill the sky.
The long sleep of air locked in the lungs of the dead.
The sleep of a room with someone inside it.
Even the wooden sleep of the moon is possible.
And there is the sleep that demands I lie down
and be fitted to the dark that comes upon me
like another skin in which I shall never be found,
out of which I shall never appear.