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Nocturne: New Year's Eve by THOMAS CENTOLELLA

December 30, 1990

Now I know why I felt so sad today.

Why this last day of the year I felt like a woman on her last legs. bending toward the ground, leaning toward her last appointment. Now I know why the hours were a slow procession leading to this mound of snow, and why as I went to rest here I looked at the sky as if I'd never seen it before. Lying here, I have no trouble imagining the woman who's been everywhere and says Enough in four languages: English, Italian, Baby, and Silence. Her body, always so prone to pain, now feels celestial, feels like nothing but what six or seven stars imply. So peaceful to lie down and not be afraid of all the degrees below zero. So good to forget trudging through the blizzard that erased everything once familiar to her. Now that she's over the hill she's becoming part of it. Back in the house my thoughts empty out, they drift from room to room. From next door comes a fuzzy piano: music to be ninety by, broken hip music, music of the wispy hair, and a cloud that inches from eye to eye. I love this largo movement somebody's put on an ancient phonograph. Even with the eyes closed it doesn't sound like a dirge at all. And instead of the woeful moon rising, I see a good woman sneaking under a dirty apron ice cream for her punished grandchildren. She sports a puckered grin toothless as an infant's that a prankster of a son is making fun of, but lovingly, and the horned fist quick to curse him, but lovingly. I can hear the cracked dinner bell of a voice calling out for the last time, and the small bird that survived a paralyzing storm to roost in an old woman's throat, to nest in her wordlessness through every kind of bad weather. And now I hear that high-pitched hoot of hers ringing in the new year. A laugh that always was a slap in the face of gloom. From "Terra Firma" (Copper Canyon Press: $10; 96 pp.). copyright 1990 by Thomas Centolella. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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