New Year’s Eve 2020

For Dani, whose help this year has made all the difference

On the last day of the no-good-very-bad year
we get to work. You come to my house—
a near-weekly stint for the past nine
months—take stock of the living room,
the boxes, empty and full, into which we
have slowly poured the detritus of my life,
survey the interior of the old garage
and new shed, and say, “What if we…?”

Without thinking too hard, a plan emerges,
the notion of making things better
cheering us both in a time when it seems
we can do so little.

How can it be that everyone on the planet—
no one is immune—suffers at the same time?
Additional agony doled out to those who
have the least, who have been preyed upon,
kicked one too many times, who can’t carry
any more pain, who deserve better.
Still, no one got the hall pass, the easy out.
Everyone is fighting a great battle;
many of us are dying in the trenches.
The wounded wander, masked and stunned,
trying to make sense of the senseless.

You and I know the sick, the dying, the dead.
Yet we work like stevedores, unloading freight
from the vessel of my century-old house
into the shed, which replaced the one erected
by someone who died two decades ago.
The last of his handmade Adirondack chairs
graces the deck, the second incarnation
of one he and his brother built. There is
so little left of him, the one I called husband,
yet he lingers as you and I work on this
last day of the no-good-very-bad year.

As we schlepp boxes, I mull over the remodeled
lives none of us saw coming, think of a friend
who spends each year’s end cleaning,
tidying up for the next twelve months,
literally putting her house in order.

And so do we on this sunny, light-breezed
day, so unexpectedly lovely that you pull out
the folding table recently tucked away for winter,
and you eat your bean and cheese burrito,
and I dive into my chicken taco plate, an
abundance of warmth on our backs,
basking in the accomplishment of a job
well done. This is grace, I think,
this peaceful moment of satisfaction.

Well done, indeed, good and faithful
servants, you who toil, you dearly departed,
rooted in the hearts of your loved ones,
now residing in mystery—never, thank God,
left behind, never forgotten.

Jan Haag, 12/31/20

New Year’s Day sunset, the island of Lanai, Hawaii, 2007 (Photo/Dick Schmidt)

About janishaag

Writer, writing teacher, editor
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5 Responses to New Year’s Eve 2020

  1. shaunasmith says:

    Thank you Jan for your poem of heartfelt & complicated feelings, shared and received. I haven’t returned to the book about my ex-husband, whose belongings since his death in 1997 still fill 5 trunks and several shelves in our basement. What to do with our loved ones legacies of the past? What do with our own? Hope all is well!

    Warmly,Shauna Shauna L. Smith, MSW, LMFT3101- I Street Suite #104Sacramento, CA 95816

  2. Kathleen says:

    Heartfelt!

  3. So so very lovely, Jan!

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