It’s the first weekend of a new year. Whether you think it also counts as a new decade may depend on whether you’re the sort of person who’ll get lost down a rabbit-hole if they google “why numbering should start at zero”.
The fact that last sentence took me over an hour to write would tend to suggest that I am a rabbit-hole explorer who thinks 2021 will be the start of the new decade. But I also think I really can’t justify the year 2020 not being part of the Twenties, so it looks like I’ll stay sitting on the fence.
To avoid further rabbit-holing on the subject of the Seventh Day and the Sabbath, I’ll skip over discussion of whether today, Sunday, belongs to the upcoming week or to the one we’ve just lived through.
But, whether the door is opening onto a new week, a new year or a new decade, I think most people probably agree that we are at the start of something. Which, slightly ironically, makes it a good moment to go back to an old poem.
are a series of small serendipities. You ask my name,
and the first time you say it, it trips your tongue and we both laugh.
Your voice reminds me of an actor and I rack my brains to place him,
unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, we discover that we watch
the same movies and read the same books.
The waitress comes to take our order: –Coffee, black, no sugar.
–Make that two. This gets us talking of the little things. We find
we both like Earl Grey tea (no milk, of course), patatas
ali oli, home-made pesto, and Rioja tinto. Pickles
are way down on both our lists.
Your birthday is the same day as my dad’s. I wonder
if you realise this makes us astrologically compatible.
You say that you’re a morning person, and I’m curious to know
if you, too, hum in tuneless contentment in the kitchen making toast.
Perhaps you whistle in the shower. When I start to tell a joke, you
supply the punchline. Still, we both laugh as if it was
the first time we’d heard it.
Our legs touch under the table and I feel
as if I’ve rediscovered electricity.
In the street, acacia trees are shedding blossoms.
I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a window and I see
I have confetti petals in my hair. We take the underground – agree
it’s better than the bus – and you stand on the escalator step below me.
Now we’re the same height, your eyes level with mine.
Later discoveries include the grey hairs on your chest
and the way your little toes curl under. You trace
the outline of the birthmark on my hip, and I
am as happy as I was the first time someone did that
Regular readers will have gathered that I have lots of old poems and not so many new ones. This one, in particular, is a bit of a favourite for several reasons. For a start, it’s the pivot poem in my book “Around the corner from Hope Street”, which means it’s quite important for me.
It was also a runner-up in a poetry competition and described in the judge’s report as “a gloriously positive poem [that] glows with happiness.” I’m pretty sure the winning poem took a far more gloomy view of the world, which is probably when I realised the world is not ready for the underlying optimism that shapes my attitude. (As long as there’s some wine in it, I tend to think the glass is half full.)
Another reason I’m fond of the poem is that when I took it to a local writers’ group for feedback, one of the women there asked me about the relationship described: “It’s so sweet! When did you meet him?” As I’d been in a long-term relationship for over a decade at that point, falling in love again was really not something I was likely to admit to, even if it had been true.
That conversation was important as it was one of the factors that inspired the name of this blog. Remember: don’t confuse the narrator of a poem with the writer.