Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

In her writings from 2016, the Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith, our poetic punk pilgrim, takes us on her travels across many US states. She cuts a solitary figure amongst the backdrop of the country’s increasingly polarising politics, travelling with ghosts of those she loves and the knowledge that she’s soon to lose two of her best friends:

Marcus Aurelius asks us to note the passing of time with open eyes. Ten thousand years or ten thousand days, nothing can stop time, or change the fact that I would be turning seventy in the Year of the Monkey. Seventy. Merely a number but one indicating the passing of a significant percentage of the allotted sand in an egg timer, with oneself the darn egg. The grains pour and I find myself missing the dead more than usual. I notice that I cry more when watching television, triggered by romance, a retiring detective shot in the back while staring into the sea, a weary father lifting his infant from a crib. I notice that my own tears burn my eyes, that I am no longer a fast runner and that my sense of time seems to be accelerating.

Smith weaves between her dreams and reality often, sometimes making it difficult to determine what’s real, but also adding a layer of magic. This isn’t a structured story with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, it more closely mirrors life’s randomness and uncertainties. The overall tone is maudlin, though underlined with hope. As much as there is sadness weighing on her, Smith continues to wander, to search for meaning, and to dream.

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