Here’s a well-worn trope you’ll see somewhere as the year 2022 ends. Someone will write or say:
“2022 — would it ever end? Glad to see that sorry year done.”
Troubling and bad things happened this past year. I know. I’m a grateful and privileged person, but still this year has had stressful and even frightening things in my family. And if we are to look fully at our nations and the world? Distress might seem a slighting word there.
Here’s another trope, one portrayed in many a cartoon around the New Years, one old enough to be old when I was a child: an aged man with a 2022 sash around his stooped body, and a young smiling toddler just able to stand and show the New Year 2023 banner arrayed across its torso. When I was a child, even a younger adult, I always looked fondly at that baby with the New Year’s sash. What wonders, what new things will the upcoming year bring? What burdens will be set down with the expiration of the old year? Even if I didn’t know how the balance of the forthcoming year would settle with the debts of the passing one, I was looking forward, closer in age to that toddler than to that geriatric December 31st.
Now that I’m an old man, that expiring year is closer to me than that tiny child — and it’s not just years that expire or stoop with age. Since last winter, long time alternative Parlando Project voice and LYL Band-mate Dave Moore and I did our part to say goodbye to some colleagues in poetry, and we both have had some family deaths. No wonder that there’s been a good number of elegies presented by this Project lately.
I’ve had the rough tracks of today’s elegy since last spring, the best of which was a vocal track that Dave laid down as part of a session we did in memory of poet Kevin FitzPatrick. It was only this December as the year was coming to a close that I found an idea of what to do with Dave’s song. His words in “Don’t Have To” are all about the routine troubles, tasks, and stresses of life mixed with the aspirations we poets dream to grasp. Kevin, who wrote about work and labor, and who labored and worked at his writing, had all of that.
This was Dave Moore’s own corrected manuscript I worked from to complete today’s piece.
It struck me that this is a great life-lot of things, a glorious jumble — Kevin’s poetry that I was privileged to experience, the care and responsibility that his family, friends, colleagues, and clients were sheltered by. If the First Noble Truth of the Buddha is that life is dukkha sacca,* then noticing a cessation of dukkha is apprehending the punching out of the timeclock of a lifetime too. Might it be worthwhile for us on New Year’s Eve to notice, or even thank, the aged 2022 of our families, friends, colleagues, and ourselves for their labors however strained and imperfect they were? When we, like the year 2022, are gone, others will take up that imperfect and sometimes thwarted work.
That thought arose as I took Dave’s vocals from last spring and using the modern tools of audio editing, I sped up their tempo to increase urgency. For music I started with a rollicking piano part which I triggered on my little plastic keyboard but made sound impossibly knuckle-busting by invoking an arpeggiator that kept the sixteenth notes flying. After establishing that tempo, I had to give my fingers a workout on the bass to lay down a bass track, and frankly I was running to catch up the whole length of the song. I added a little vibraphone and guitar to add some visiting outside timbres to the dominant piano and that completed the unusual elegy “Don’t Have To (Now You’re Done)” you can hear with the player below. Don’t see any player? This highlighted link is an alternative way to hear it.
*A complicated term to translate, though the simple translation of “life is suffering” is common. Properly, it includes the sense of stress, unease, and dissatisfaction as well.