New Year's Kiss

Jan Carroll

I have a clock in my kitchen stopped
a few minutes short of midnight. Even though

it’s broken beyond hope, I keep it there by the sink
to remind me—not of the ever-impending end

of the world but instead of New Year’s Eve, over
and over. As if anticipating in those moments leading to

twelve chimes: the days of Christmas, a dozen fresh
Grade AA eggs, visiting the Apostle Islands, and the months

waiting for me in the calendar I just picked up
at Office Max. Strokes of beginning and potential—not 

constriction. In fact, the tradition of kissing at midnight
on New Year’s Eve dates from the Roman Saturnalia,

a celebration of anything but restriction, and which, it is said, began
with kissing. And later, Europeans at big parties wore masks

bearing all the bad of the past year. A kiss after removing
those masks, revealing those faces, was meant to reenact

purification. Or, it’s like the woman I went to see
at the nursing home whose dementia has robbed her

of speech, but who, when I blew her a kiss upon leaving, raised
a hand to her mouth, and with a sweep of her arm, sent one back.

Jan Carroll works in publishing and alternative health. A graduate of UWEC, she lives just blocks from the river.

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