NEW YEAR'S DAY
by Billy Collins
Everyone has two birthdays
according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,
the day you were born and New Year’s Day—
a droll observation to mull over
as I wait for the tea water to boil in a kitchen
that is being transformed by the morning light
into one of those brilliant rooms of Matisse.
“No one ever regarded the First of January
with indifference,” writes Lamb,
for unlike Groundhog Day or the feast of the Annunciation,
this one marks nothing but the passage of time,
I realized, as I lowered a tin diving bell
of tea leaves into a little body of roiling water.
I admit to regarding my own birthday
as the joyous anniversary of my existence
probably because I was, and remain
to this day in late December, an only child.
And as an only child--
a tea-sipping, toast-nibbling only child
in a colorful room this morning--
I would welcome an extra birthday,
one more opportunity to stop what we are doing
for a moment and reflect on my being here on earth.
And one more birthday might be a consolation
to us all for having to face a death-day, too,
an X in a square
on some kitchen calendar of the future,
the day when each of us is thrown off the train of time
by a burly, heartless conductor
as it roars through the months and years,
party hats, candles, confetti, and horoscopes
billowing up in the turbulent storm of its wake.
. from the book, "Ballistics," © Random House 2008