The year coming swiftly to its end. I am not sorry to see it go. I hardly know what I did this year, with the time. So much of it spent waiting. Still after all this time, waiting.
The body in its slow decline. Dull ache in the bones. Lines deepening across my face. My hair coming loose in clumps.
Started the year with lists. Books to read, places to visit, topics on which to write. Even lists of lists to keep. Artists to research. The first collections of favorite poets. Small presses and journals. The names of obscure saints. New projects to think about starting some day. Projects that have been started, but remain unfinished. This is how I pass the hours. Incessant inventory. Stating and re-stating. Accomplishing little, save for filling time.
This is the year we lost M.’s father. His troubled heart relenting at last. We stood there for hours, as friends and neighbors filed past, their heads bowed, tremors in their voices. A life both ordinary and extraordinary. This is what we get.
Later, we spent a week by the lake. Paddled out past the rows of houses to the quiet inlet where turtles sunned themselves on fallen tree branches. How my daughter wept there, beneath the weight of her own life beginning, stretching out before her like the inlet itself, shimmering in early light, but revealing nothing of its quiet depths.
This was the year I was finally given a name – a single name amid the anonymity of forms and documents. Not my mother, but the woman with whom I lived for a time. (“She lives comfortably with a foster mother and her son.”)
Songhee Lee. She was forty-five then. I am also given the address where she lived, where we lived, but to me the words signify little: Hongeun-dong, Seodaemungu. A phone number: 352-1733.
The social worker adds, at the end of her note: “I hope this answers your question.”
The year I traveled west – not once, but twice crossed the wide plains. First with my family so that at Jade Cove, with the cool damp air on our skin, we could watch as the Pacific beat against the rocky cliffs. And to walk, days later, along the great Russian River in the small hours of morning, the mist still hovering there, and flanked by ancient trees.
Then later, alone. Seven uneasy days spent circling a writing project that now languishes. The bench by the lake where I sat in the afternoons, reading Edouard Leve’s Autoportrait and weeping for reasons I could not then articulate and not now remember fully.
A year when the voices of women kept me company: Marie Chaix, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Anne Carson, Christine Schutt, Mary Ruefle, Hoa Nyugen, Heather Lewis, Dorothea Lasky, Sharon Olds, Ana Bozicevic, Alison Bechdel, Anais Nin. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Nan Goldin. Francesca Woodman. Maggie Nelson. Patti Smith. Stevie Nicks. Natasha Khan. Katie Crutchfield.
A year of letting go. (I am still working on this.)
I re-worked a long poem that had been haunting me for some time. Forcing it into shapes it did not want to take. I put it aside for months. I read about the migratory patterns of birds.
It became a long poem of twenty-eight stanzas. Here are the first two:
And here is how it ends: