On January 24th

 Lauren K. Alleyne

for Shirleen


It's been proven, they say—

the bills like a line of ants,

the glamour of the new year

grown dull like a tin ring, dark

taking the sky like a curve,

half the continent huddled

into scarves and sneezes—

the small engine of the brain

sputters and coughs, spins

the wheel of our brightness

to no avail. My friend tells me

she won't succumb, not this year,

that she's armed with a gadget

to simulate sunlight, to trick

her hothouse neurons

into defiant, artificial bloom.

It's her birthday, so I smile

but I can't stop the images

summoned up in my own light-

lacking mind: her dendrites sprouting,

crazed with the unseasonal brilliance;

leaky synapses dripping dopamine,

serotonin, overflowing the bowl of her

—everything out of kilter, ready

to blow. Her face looms over the cake,

the candles spelling the years

she has insisted on her own wild survival

—a flaming sentence, an almost-sun.

Her eyes squint their wish and flutter,

look at the light disappear.



* According to news reports, a psychologist in Wales created an "emotional" formula and calculated that misery peaks on January 24th.