And seas between us broad have roared
(“Auld Lang Syne,” English tradition)
New Year’s Eve holds no charm for me, one year blending seamlessly into the next by a simple tick of the clock, all this nonsense about resolutions just a way to make excuses. But my husband loves the pageantry, especially when we are traveling, each country with its own insanities and customs he wants to experience. And so we venture out, join in — we eat twelve grapes at midnight in Madrid, buy our small son marzipan pigs in Vienna, dodge a firecracker battle in Paris, tiny sticks of gunpowder spitting sparks onto our faces, our coats, our mittened hands.
And now in London, I would much rather be wrapped in a blanket, watching the spectacle on television with a cup of tea. My son is thirteen, would rather be sleeping or listening to his mp3 player. But here we are, layering fleece and sweaters to hop on the Tube toward the Eye, to watch the cars of the ferris wheel tumble like a giant firework that refuses to leave the sky. We exit the station, and I can tell it will be bad — streets packed shoulder to shoulder, one undulating mass pulsing toward the square. Some, in a burst of British impoliteness, shove through like a snake with a poisonous head, the leader creating space, the rest slithering behind before the hole can close.
I grab my husband’s jacket, insist that he keep my son in front of him, fearing the drunken disarray looming beneath the surface of the crowd. We inch ahead, unable to see where we are going, and things get louder, uglier. People move back against the grain now, some drenched with sweat, a few with bloodied scalps, bottles thrown in irritation across the sea of heads. We decide to move sideways, escape to a cul-de-sac where we cannot see the Eye, but maybe can glimpse the fireworks. Birthed from the stream of people, I sigh until I notice my son is nowhere in sight. Not normally prone to hysteria, my whole body convulses with panic as I turn toward my husband — find him, find him now. I wait alone outside a closed coffee shop, berate myself for my lack of mothering skills, my poor judgment, my hands cupped over my face like an oxygen mask, as if I have forgotten how to breathe. When they emerge from the crowd, my son in front, I leap to hug him. Seeing my panic, he doesn’t object.
This is when I crack, turn and sob with red-faced ugly gulps into my husband’s chest. I hate this, I hate this, I mumble, over and over like a mantra that will mystically erase this feeling, this one moment where I understand, for the first time in my life, how a woman could (pockets weighted) walk into the sea, could climb high atop the Tower Bridge and throw herself willingly into the Thames.
bodies together, bodies to gather
in bags and boxes, in black zippers,
ice boxes and black bags, gathered
rows of bodies, rose bodies scatter
on sheets and pillows, on cases,
pillowcases and petals, scattered
bodies in beds, bodies that confuse
limbs and forgetting, in whispers,
forgetten limbs whisper, confused
halls of bodies, hauled bodies rest
in corners and crannies, in heaps,
crammed corners, hauled, rested
bodies left behind, bodies that lift
into mist and midnight, into moon,
misty midnight bodies, now lifted.
Donna Vorreyer hates crowds, unless she’s at a music festival. (Music soothes… well, you know.) She lives in a house with a spacious yard and plenty of breathing space for her husband, her son, and her dog. Visit her and view her work at her website or her blog.
Vampires should be concerned
about the convention of crosses
beamed above the broad expanse
of the Great Lawn. Even if you can
arrive undetected, your pale faces
will be unreflected in the Cloud
Gate, every tourist turning from
his own convex visage to point
and stare then break branches from
the dense arbor nearby, scrape them
across the concrete to fashion stakes.
Werewolves should take caution
while viewing the following slides;
please shield the eyes of younger
lycanthropes. First are the wings
of the Pritzker Pavilion, rising like
a broken ribcage, bones curling out
from the impact of a blast to the chest.
Very disturbing. Then that giant bean,
(see warning to vampires) poised
at the park’s edge like a silver bullet,
just waiting to be fired across the lake
at the eye of a full, white moon.
Frankenstein, you should be all right.
Tall, bulky men abound in Chicago.
But please be careful in the Lurie Garden,
the path of wildflowers high and filled
with small children who frighten easily.
You know what happened the last time
you picked daisies with a little girl. So
stay to the west, watch the photos
on the Crown Fountain, all those faces
smiling, sans stitches. Pull your scarf
tighter against the strong lake wind.
Not a soul will ever notice your bolts.
Donna Vorreyer’s list of classics includes her family, Diet Coke, Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, and Star Wars movies. She lives in the Chicago area, and you can visit her and her work at her website or on her blog.