New Year’s Day

 
We went down to the limit of the land
 
Hundreds had arrived before us
They were clumped by the water, as if for the sending-off of a funeral pyre
as if looking at something that had washed ashore
 
But it was the other way
 
They were stripped and stripping down
milling, basking in the understanding that something beautiful had happened
and that they’d had something to do with it
 
We eddied through the fringes to the waterline
one eye cast outward to the gold lamé sunlight
another on the bodies
 
Men and women, a few teenagers
bouncing a little, then
feeling the nonsense shock of knowledge
that this was happening
 
Their shoulders fell forward
and they whooped to sustain their courage
as they went to meet the water
 
*            *            *
 
Later, they would receive certificates, tee-shirts that read “I did it!”
I saw an older man with a letterman’s nylon jacket
a polar bear stolid against the shiny fabric
 
A DJ spun by the bathhouse
and no one rushed for dry clothes
 
They didn’t know what it meant,
and they wouldn’t be tomorrow,
but they were happy.