The wrong date in the guest book

It’s February, and I still can’t get the year right.
This annual lag time on my ability to move a single digit
is almost more significant than the new year itself.
Unless, of course, you’re marking time by the moon.
But even Luna has renewed herself already.

I sign in at the office of an elementary school,
stick the Visitor badge on my sweatshirt,
and am already halfway to the auditorium
when a stranger stops me to say
(why this is significant to her is beyond me):
“You wrote 2011 in the guest book.”
And she’s right. I did,
as though I’m some kind of backwards time-traveler
visiting this very place on this very day
many moons ago.

I don’t think to tell her then
(it’s only later of course, that I bother to reflect
on the difficulty of watching time pass)
that this happens to me every year,
that my birthday is coming up and I’m not sure if some kind
of formal reflection is required
or if I can just throw a casual dinner party and call it a year.
I don’t think to tell her that time feels different
from inside an elementary school
(she probably knows this, too)
because it gets stretchy and magical and other things
are so much more important,
things like recess and fractions and learning to spell difficult words like
“special” and “tongue.”
And it’s February already (2012, for God’s sake!) and the 5th graders
are suddenly nearly adults
and the kindergartners
have figured out not only how to share
but how to gang up against one another.
Yes, we are all growing
at the same impossible rate.
We are all moving at the same impossible speed around the sun.
We are all marked by the same inexorable dance of Luna herself.

But I don’t tell her any of this, this stranger.
The magical stretchiness of time can only protect so much
in these inner-city schools.
If I time-traveled forwards and marked that guest book 2013,
could I bear how much change had visited in between?
Could I bear how fate had crept into our unassuming lives?
How precious and fragile these years are,
these endless childhoods.

Perhaps that’s why I hang on to each year long after it has expired,
why I put so little effort into remembering that one final digit.
Luna has time-passing well in hand, that much is unavoidable.
All the rest of us can do is live fiercely into each moment
and wave to her has she twirls overhead.

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Filed under Musings, Poetry

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