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Some Thoughts on Time and Regret

When I was teaching in China, I’d tell my students, “Every day I teach wisdom, and if you don’t come to class, you will never get the wisdom that I was giving in the class you missed; you may get other wisdom later, but you won’t get that.” These days I am missing things like poetry readings. Obviously most folks would simply avoid them, but for those of us who go and take the time to sit while others read their poems to us, thoughts they have organized with feelings, and figuring and sound, this work can be a catharsis, an epiphany, new fancy, or simply a good time, but if you miss it, that is that.

This Thursday, remembering that De Robertis was closing, I walked down First Avenue after my morning class—there had been some minor frustrations due to work, and I was tired as my teaching week came to an end. I wanted to have one last fig tart from De Robertis, a fig tart that I would stop and buy from time to time and eat while walking home. But when I got there, movers were already moving out the tables and the chairs that had been there for decades, for a century perhaps—De Robertis opened in 1904—and all the glass cases were empty, no more cannolis, no more Breast of Venus, no more Italian ice. The ghosts of all of De Robertis past customers shook their heads letting me know what it was I wanted was forever from my grasp.

If I had the money, I would hire a secretary who could even do my Facebook and then regret and time would not go hand in hand. Reader, you smile. Yesterday I made it to the gym (finally) and on the way home treated myself to a fig tart that they have at Veniero’s, but it wasn’t De Robertis. Perhaps if I’d planned yesterday for today, and today for tomorrow, it would be different. Perhaps we are all on the same boat, the one we cannot miss. Perhaps we all end like Villon’s old whore with the question on our lips “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” Or perhaps not. We won’t know till we get there and see the boat.

The Poetry Project’s New Year’s Day Marathon at Saint Mark’s Church is coming up in less than a month, and I was thinking of reading a poem this year although for the past five years, I have been performing songs with my nephew Daniel. I was just about to text Daniel to tell him that I didn’t want to do a song this year, just read a poem because I was kind of tired and didn’t want to think about it, but before I could do that, Daniel texted me, “Are we going to do something at Saint Mark’s?” At first I kind of groaned because I haven’t been practicing the guitar, but of course, if Daniel plays, his good playing will cover mine so I thought why not? We’ll either do Going Back to Work or Sweet Little Angel. Daniel already knows Sweet Little Angel, but I’ve changed Going Back to Work. “Record it and send it to me,” Daniel said. So this morning I got up, had some coffee, sat on the couch and did it, not too loud to upset neighbors or the sleeping guest, but I got it over with. Now I can send it to Daniel and we can begin. Either Going Back or Sweet Little Angel; we’ll go over both when we meet at Christmas. The adrenaline begins to flow if just a trickle. It’s good to do something you can screw up. Just get up and do it, do what you fear, walk to that waiting metaphoric audience; it means you’re moving forward and not just sitting there. And I have a little time to practice too.

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