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Taking Down the Wreath

Light several candles and notice that each candle’s flame is different like individuals, all flame but none the same. All we can do is flicker and whatever fears and doubts we carry cannot stop us, but merely go along, as we offer the light we have. Don’t be afraid. It’s New Year’s Day. I’m naked playing Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria Live at the Village Gate, moving to the urging flute as I take the wreath down from the window and lay it on newspaper to catch most of the browning needles. The ornaments are wrapped away, star first, the angel last. Undoing the lights entwined around the wreath is a mess. My cat Cachito knows if he tries to help, he’ll only make matters worse, and chooses to watch up close. Unlike humans, dead pine doesn’t stink and remains dimly odorous, the dry needles falling like familiar rain. At last, the lights unlashed in the final twist, I wind them up and put them away with the rest, all to be forgotten until next year when they’re happily remembered again like Oye Como Va drowned out while I vacuum, but after the machine’s turned off, I hear the song and do a little cha-cha-cha.

from New York Chronicles 2001

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