One New Year’s Eve when I was seven or eight my parents had a few friends over to to celebrate. I was the only child there, passing cookies and Ritz crackers with cheese slices. I was thinking about the strangeness of one year ending and another beginning, when I was suddenly overcome with the sense that time was running out to write the year we were in in the present. What was true now soon would be in the past. I put down the plate I was carrying, dashed into my bedroom, and opened my notebook. I wrote the year over and over: 1951, 1951, 1951, 1951, until the page was covered. Nothing stays time, but I felt better for having marked it. That was all I could do–when I woke up it we all would have sailed beyond it, no going back. I still feel that mix of dread and anticipation. Here are two poems that speak to that:
Archaic Torso of Apollo Rainier Maria Rilke trans. Stephen Mitchell We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared. Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur: would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.