Sunday, December 31, 2017

31 December 1985

A New Year reimagined.
Reynolds Price poem recalls a time long gone. For this reviewer, a New Year's Eve in Canada.

Even a sane man staggers to points where
The smallest grain may suddenly blast out
Promise or threat — the wrong birdcall,
The rate of sunlight prowling a face,
The day's first word. Today, butt-end
Of an endless year, you tumble me
From chair to car in chill sunlight
And then yell "Whoa!" I crouch in the plush,
Expecting blood — cut forehead, cut foot
(The practical hemophilia of the numb).

You've found, at your own safe feet in leaves,
My grandmother's wide gold wedding-band,
Century-old companion of her life
From marriage at sixteen to death at forty-eight
(Eight children, a flagging fame for laughter)—
Lost from my left hand days ago,
Despaired of till now. I seize it, cold,
And warm it fast on a stout right finger
Blasted by luck — a year redeemed,
Her fame renewed, her gift of time.


— Reynolds Price


31 December 1985 first appeared in print in the December, 1987 issue of Poetry magazine and was included in Reynolds Price's (1933-2011) third collection of poetry, The Use of Fire published in 1990.

The Use of Fire follows the same themes as Price's previous collections and is laid out in three parts. The first speaks to human emotions, the second is an intimate journal, and the third looks back on physical pleasure. 31 December 1985 is from the second part, appropriately titled Days and Nights, and is dedicated to RLC.