This season, I was gratified to discover a few Millenials embracing an old-fashioned tradition, writing and mailing out Christmas letters. My nephew Sam, an aspiring artist and musician who toiled at Walgreens by day and performed at open mikes by night before COVID interrupted his life, did a phenomenal job with his letter, closing with his “playlist” for 2020:
Will You Miss Me When I Burn? (Palace Brothers)
Say Valley Maker (Smog )
Out of Tune (Real Estate Band)
Jubilee Street (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes)
Sister (Angel Olsen)
Weyes Blood – Bad Magic (Mexican Summer)
It Seemed the Better Way (Leonard Cohen)
Shelter From The Storm (Bob Dylan)
Pretty Eyes (Silver Jews)
He sent me a YouTube link, so I spent a morning listening to his picks, trying to imagine the impact of the pandemic on the young… Living alone or with roommates in tiny apartments, going to scary essential jobs or scraping by on unemployment, alienated from friends, dating, and most social venues. There is some overlap, certainly, but I am 52 and married, introverted, and retired. I am my own landlord, have my own washer and dryer, and enjoy the company of two dogs and a cat. I’m content baking cakes and reading the newspaper and assembling jigsaw puzzles. In fact, I may continue living this way after COVID has passed. 52 is quite different from 25. Immersing myself in his playlist was like journeying to the past in a time machine. When a particular lyric spoke to me, I jotted it down on an index card. Strung end-to-end, with a little rearranging, these lyrics became a “found” poem:
SORTING IT ALL OUT
It is longing that you feel,
to be missed, or to be real.
The world outside is so inconceivable,
often, you barely can speak,
a ten ton catastrophe
on a 60–pound chain.
The one-eyed undertaker,
he blows a futile horn.
At least there’s nothing more
you could really lose, now is there?
You wonder what it was…
You wonder what it meant…
You know we can’t cop to
the frequency of your inner debate
so you learn to take it as it comes.
You fall together, fall apart
with the grace of a corpse
in a riptide.
Make the best of death
and love what’s left.
Do you still believe stars
are the headlights of angels
driving from heaven
to save us?
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