New Year’s Eve Y2K

New poetry by Bonnie Ditlevsen


We’re brushing up on saying 
Felice anno nuovo
like real Italians will wish one another tonight

and I was glad to leave our chilly room 
in the penzione, because it’s true 
what they say about accommodations

in Rome. They pretty much suck 
for the money. They take you back 
to some sort of wartime-era, 

black-and-white movie set: Sophia
Loren wringing her hands, looking distraught. 
Mascara and distress and crumbling

stucco façades. We walk rather than
attempting to use public transportation,
thick crowds of revelers already

filling Rome’s streets. We three are
on a mission: drink the wine in
our backpacks, and save our prosecco

for right at the stroke of midnight,
because who knows where we’ll be
after the computers around the world

hit two-zero-zero-zero?
See Rome and die
takes on a whole new meaning

tonight. Like that splendid carriage
Cinderella was supposed to ride
home in. What’s the Italian for

turn into a pumpkin?
The throngs of partiers along the Via del Corso, 
laughing, embracing, arm in arm, many

in dressy leather jackets and smart, thick scarves
wrapped ever so stylishly twice around their necks
like loosened turbans 

make their way to where we’re heading:
the Piazza del Popolo and
the Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II.

No one ever said that the three of us
were that original in our travel plans. Just going
with the flow. With the “All Roads Lead To.”

I swig my wine, cork it, stuff the bottle
into George’s backpack and he pauses
and he and Simon and I are by a subway entrance.

I look down. It’s past 8 pm and at the foot
of the concrete stairway I see rows of
sleeping people, Albanians, maybe

Bulgarians, many of them men,
lying there crammed side by side like sardines 
atop blankets, cocooned against the cold in yet more

blankets. Seeking to rest after another barren day
spent just surviving. This, another face of my
Roman winter holiday. Y2K is coming and

they’re sleeping and I’m drinking and we’re drinking
while walking and we’re worrying about the future and 
we’re not exactly joyous, though we’re heading for joy,

and all the while, in the dark of our backpacks,
three bottles of cheap prosecco await their simple-physics fate
to greedy pairs of hands, fumbling fingers.

Bonnie Ditlevsen is a full-time solo parent and student of classical singing in Portland. She curates a weekly reading series of poetry & flash prose as part of her work with the online literary magazine Penduline.

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