Sometime in the ’90s I decided that trying to have fun and frivolity in a crowd of intoxicated people on New Year’s Eve was a fool’s errand. Instead, I stay home on New Year’s Eve and invite friends over for a hearty lunch of Southern good luck staples on New Year’s Day. The menu changes, but it always involves pork, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and an ambrosia.
On New Year’s Day of 2014, instead of a traditional toast, I decided to launch the meal with a favorite poem by American poet Richard Tillinghast, who is from Memphis but has lived in Ireland for many years. I think “Table” is a fitting way to launch a new year full of hope and possibilities. For New Year’s Day 2015, I want to share it with you. May your table be full and steady. Happy New Year.
Table by Richard Tillinghast from the Turkish of Edip Cansever
A man filled with the gladness of living
Put his keys on the table.
Put flowers in a copper bowl there.
He put his eggs and milk on the table.
He put there the light that came in through the window,
Sound of a bicycle, sound of a spinning wheel.
The softness of bread and weather he put there.
On the table the man put
Things that happened in his mind.
What he wanted to do in life,
He put that there.
Those he loved, those he didn’t love,
The man put them on the table too.
Three times three make nine:
The man put nine on the table.
He was next to the window next to the sky;
He reached out and placed on the table endlessness.
So many days he had wanted to drink a beer!
He put on the table the pouring of that beer.
He placed there his sleep and his wakefulness:
His hunger and his fullness he placed there.
Now that’s what I call a table!
It didn’t complain at all about the load.
It wobbled once or twice, then stood firm.
The man kept piling things on.
“Table” by Richard Tillinghast, from Selected Poems by Richard Tillinghast; Dublin: The Dedalus Press. 2009. Reprinted with permission of the publisher (www.dedaluspress.com).