The Years

The Years

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Adrienne Su is the author of five books of poems, most recently Peach State (University of Pittsburgh, 2021), named by Georgia Center for the Book as one of 2022’s “Books All Georgians Should Read.” Her poems have appeared in many magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and in the Academy of American Poets “Poem-a-Day” series. Her work can also be found in five volumes of The Best American Poetry. She teaches at Dickinson College.


The Years

From WTP Vol. XI #3

You knew how to count: it only made sense
that the one direction to move in was up.
Elders had been warning of evanescence,

so when a meeting dragged or your car stalled,
you grieved the waste of small eternities
and wished you’d been lectured on patience, resolve,

self-discipline, not whatever it meant to seize
the day before it fades. You took dutiful notes
or awaited the tow, as better possibilities

receded. Maybe the wisdom of the old
was overrated. They had surely forgotten
how long they once stood at the bus stop, cold

and bored. How many weeks it took the postman
to bring crucial news, and never on Sundays.
How they lay in the grass, eyeing indifferent heavens

and plotting escape. How the winter holidays
brought loneliness and too little light, the houses
in their cheer strangely empty—or were they? 

You couldn’t trust anyone’s recall. Their spouses
were constantly challenging details. “Have fun
while you still can,” they repeated without

concrete examples, without acknowledgment
of how many perils had come into range.
They imagined what they would have done

in retrospect; they know who they became.
How sweet and mistaken their confidence
that the ending would not have changed.

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