On the morning of New Year’s Day, I drove out to Newbury Park to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house. (I passed the Newbury Park library branch, which was closed, of course, but noticed that it looks like a nice one, and that it’s the anchor of a small shopping center, which must be convenient! It’s part of the Thousand Oaks system rather than LAPL, so I don’t have a card there, but the next time I’m loitering in the area during business hours, I’ll take a peek.)
It’s a longish drive, so eventually I turned on the radio. The first song I heard, and therefore the first song of the new year, was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dark Necessities,” which seems–both accurate and auspicious? (That long tease of an intro, the song’s easy acceptance of the transience of everything–“You and I both know/Everything must go/Away”–and the strength of artistic intent: “Dark necessities are part of my design.”)
After we got home, I went to the shared workspace to write for a while. It often happens that there’s something I need to read while I’m writing, and the first poem I read, and therefore the first poem of the new year, was Song of Myself, which–also accurate and auspicious–seems like exactly the right complement to the song, and to the day itself.
Here’s a piece of it. (And by the way: almost every day of my reading and teaching life, I appreciate what the Poetry Foundation has done in putting thousands of good texts of poetry online.)
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.
Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself (1892 version)