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⌘ I Find My 2020 Glasses from New Years

I find my 2020 glasses from New Years—

silver and plastic, they tumble out of the art closet

to the floor, their tangible irony hangs at my ankles.

I pick them up, move them in my hands (shiny, unthreatening),

slip them onto my face this icy December full moon night,

look back through the lens-less lenses, cold curious senses,

to see what I can see, to look back on this year that’s changed us all,

and the last time I wore these glasses, I wished for clarity,

but I didn’t mean it like this, I didn’t mean 2020 perfect vision

making everything that mattered suddenly come into blinding focus,

I blink & 2020 floods the backs of my eyes, reckless & cruel,

the reflective mirror sheen infinities me into flashback loops,

a gold star diagonals my left eye & the zeroes open eye holes,

the first 2 juts my right cheekbone & the other 2 bridges my nose,

a year spelled out on my face, spelled out on all our faces in the letters

of the lost, the sounds of their names, the holes we heavy—

& maybe there is symbolism in the positioning of these signs,

cheap drugstore party favor turned crystal ball visionary rhymes,

& I have tried to come to this poem from all possible sides,

wanted to mark this year with something meaningful that I write,

but the words just don’t come, no matter the hum of my brain turning

over the days in my hands, I’m numb, I breathe, I breathe again—

I pain over the lines, & sometimes a poem can’t paper cup oceans,

or see the clarity in 2020 glasses at the end of this darkest year,

trying to pen some clever flip of a script none of us knew the words to,

year that cut us off at the knees, made us grieve, & question our beliefs,

these frames that name all the pain & growth we’ve blamed on a year

that dropped all the balls on us, dumpster-fire-hell-scape we called living,

the socially-distant-my-god-I miss-you-please-don’t-die we called surviving & all I can think of is 2020’s grand design began with wildfires,

over a billion animals in Australia burnt to bushland black,

devastation starting in the animal kingdom, their spirits phoenixing,

I taught a poetry class to children here, while children there cried

under red apocalypse skies & I wrote a poem— “Koala in Past Tense”

should’ve dedicated it us, precursor to a year of staring down tenses,

becoming present, becoming past, hoping desperately for a future,

& the clues were forming in the fiery atmosphere, every paradigm

we knew was about to go up in flames, singe & wither, fall away,

then Kobe crashed into a mountainside, died on a January day, he was 41.

I turn 41 in two days & I see the shock wave of one man’s death,

& how one death seems to carry more weight than 339,000 in the tonnage

of grief, but how do I quantify something like that in a poem?

This is January, was January in the year of our lord oh lord what now,

& a billion animals hovering in the ethers saying wait humans,

your kingdom comes & the plastic glasses on my face heavy

with each memory, slide into the cold of February & the first death

from COVID finds our shores, impeached president resident demagogue retains

his rei(g)ns on darkness & we go on in our untouchable americanness

thinking this virus is only in otherlands, the autopilot of our lives about

to grind into a halted March. We watch Italians lock down, sing operas

from aching balconies, waters of Venice clear from lack of humans,

dolphins swim, & by Friday March 13th, I am hiding in a bathroom

in an elementary school between classes, waiting in fear of children’s hands,

waiting for the school to shut down, then everything shuts down, locks

down & we mouthed the words global pandemic for the first time.

Breonna Taylor was also shot that day, look how the storylines coincide.

We lose half our faces behind masks, scrub-scald our hands raw, wipe

down groceries, collectively hold breaths, as daily the deaths take us, take us.

April we shelter in place, howl every night for essential workers, clap

for the heroes, bang pots from balconies, & New York City piles with bodybags.

There is not enough space to bury all the dead, this pervading image

runs through my head, still peering through these 2020 eyes in dread.

May, mayday mayday we’re crashing crashing, we can’t breathe,

I CAN’T BREATHE George Floyd screams, neck under knee of brutality,

May, in masks we take to the streets, two pandemics— COVID-19

& Black men historically being murdered by police, BLACK LIVES MATTER we shout

& hold protest signs, I see thousands march in this poetic rewind,

& in May we crossed over an unfathomable number— 100,000 dead

as science naysayers & redhats pool party for memorial day instead,

the peoples’ divide widens, the 2020 glasses crack down the bridge,

June we topple confederates, battle literal nazis as tensions rise,

thousands more die, July & August summer of our own wildfires,

If only we swept the forest of dead leaves trump said, & it is what it is

when talking about the Americans dead, & there is a hope that rises

in the back of our masked throats, in a few months we’ll all rise to vote

in the most influential election of our lives, but from August to November,

we still have to survive, John Lewis and RBG cross over to fight

from the other side, trump tells the proud boys to stand back & stand by,

& this reel to reel remembrance through 2020 party favor glasses

can’t lose focus now, must see it all, can’t lose the vision that

the division between those of us who believe in science & those

who balked at COVID compliance, drove us only further into graves,

another hundred thousand lives could’ve been saved, they said

goodbye to their families on iPads, choked on ventilators in ICU,

this was summer’s other narrative, the untouchable deaths & what

loneliness can do, & how we all became pixelated bodies on zoom

reaching out reaching out as we humans do. Let’s skip to hope now,

the election won, vaccines, the words light & tunnel, the dark winter

blooming into possible spring & I can see clearly now,

my 2020 perfect vision blurred with tears of everything lost,

but look at what we have gained. Paradigm shifts rippling through

all of humanity take disaster & sometimes calamity, take breaking

& reshaping, dust returning to dust, fires burning everything

all at once, & maybe you found out what really matters this year.

Maybe all of us who survived & are still surviving, will have

the eyes to see, will have the hearts to heal, will have common

struggle & stories, just like in putting on these 2020 New Year’s

glasses & remembering this painful glorious year, I see

that everything that mattered was already in front of me,

I married the woman I love, I wrote poetry, I fought like hell

for American democracy, I put my hands into the soil &

we ate vegetables planted from seed, I learned to identify

birdsongs singing from the trees, I stretched & I stretched

into a higher version of me, & this was the gift of 2020.

You see, clarity comes in many forms. All of us, all at once

had the chance to see things more clearly, to hold closer

to our hearts what we really hold dearly, to learn and work

beside our growing children, to shape our own little worlds rebuilding.

I will keep this vision always, place the 2020 glasses on

my office bookshelf, remember the perceptions gained,

the higher insight suddenly ordained, the clarity of crystals

glimmering like stars in my eyes, guiding us all perhaps

to a better home, a better world,

on the other side of this year we survived.


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