It’s not that I don’t have a good sense of cheer
but the end of December I especially fear.
The windchill is dropping
and its getting colder.
My birthday is coming and I’m getting older.
The trains are delayed and the stations are freezing.
Tourists are shoving and commuters are sneezing.
They’re all making lists and checking them twice.
They’re maniacally shopping and dodging black ice.
I want you to know that there are people like me
who are perfectly happy without a gift or a tree
All we want is some peace and some time to ourselves.
It has nothing to do with toys or with elves.
When I’m trapped on a train with the unspeakably rude
and the ladies are all wrapped up in their snoods…
or is it a sneed? I don’t know! I don’t care!
Want to know what I think when I’m stuck under there?
That I want to READ. Let me read, read, read, read!
“Personal space!” I silently plead.
I know that is something every New Yorker needs.
But I can’t move my arms.
And I can’t really breathe.
I get these ideas.
These awful ideas.
I just get these WONDERFUL, AWFUL ideas!
What if I was alone?
No one else in the town?
No holiday madness?
No pushing around?
I’d fill my house up with books. So many books.
With Edward Said and lots of bell hooks!
Hemingway! Russell! Austen and Heller!
Kafka and Didion! Renata Adler!
New York would be quiet.
No subways, no planes.
No honking of taxis as they try to change lanes.
And I’d sit and I’d smile with a hand to my ear
because quiet’s the sound that I most like to hear.
But after a while of reading alone
I’d finish a chapter and let out a groan—
“oh man what’d you think”—
but no one is home.
I’m sharing my thoughts with the cold, empty air.
This isn’t fun. No one’s there. It’s not fair!
I have so much to say about what’s in my book
but everyone’s gone and I can’t make them look.
I can’t ask them to listen
because it’s only me.
And somehow your fun is diminished by three
when ideas are boinging around in your head
but you can’t talk about all the great things you have read.
So as much as I hate it
The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags and the the tinsel!
The trimmings! The trappings!
I’ll swallow my misanthropy
(there’s no rhyme for that).
I’ll wrap up my scarf and I’ll pull on my hat.
I’ll smile at commuters who read books on the train
as we shuffle and wriggle, always in vain.
New York is better with people around
even with all its smells and its terrible sounds.
Though I don’t want to go
I will trudge through the snow.
The bookstore will make things better, I know.