New Year Poem (2022)

I had the thought of a poem today. It was pretty good actually. Something to put on a card and send to people. Something hopeful about the new year. I thought of it while running in the park. All the leaves have fallen. It was freezing. I felt alive.

Later that night, I realized I couldn’t remember anything about it. Not the words, or even the concept.

That poem is gone.

Would you say that the poem never existed?

I trust your answer more than ever, given our shared expertise in distancing.

What can I tell you about the new year? I read aloud once again that Mithridates, he died old. This is a tradition. Each year, it feels like it has more resonance. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the words, just the fact that it’s a poem I was introduced to back in the old days and it has stayed with me all these years (adding a new one now, given the new year).

Things that make an impression in youth and stick with you compound meaning. New grooves weave their way into the marks and scrapes and scars of old.

That old poem, the one I first heard so long ago, is here now, the same as it ever was, but also, telling me something new.

Words will come, words will go. And on that late night subway ride home, staring into the darkness and the hint of a reflection of you, the words will be recalled. Perhaps we’ve shared that moment, but betrayed nothing in our momentary exchange of a glance.

Let the relentlessness of lost time forge the memory of how we express what we share from a distance.

These are the pieces of us that will come together for whatever happens next.

This is what I was thinking about while trying to remember, recalling that all the leaves have fallen, when it was freezing.

This is the poem.

— Jeffrey Yamaguchi, January 1, 2022