The new year is coming and I
am still in the curve of the old—
dragging myself backward—
holding on to autumn
with its soft linger of sunshine,
aching against winter—
already feeling December
devour itself. Oh, I am not
ready—am never ready
for the turning off of time—
until I am plummeted again
into the new, which comes—
with so much feeling of relief
—relief and anticipation.
The year comes trailing in like an innocent
bystander and finds me in the first hour
and we size each other up and take some
sort of stance to suggest intention,
so we greet each other carefully and ask
direction of one another,
and here we are at the same beginning—
dependent on one another, somehow,
to make it work—whatever we say
and mean. And we wander off together—
down the days—and become destined—
though the particulars are yet to be realized.
(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2005)
THE YEAR’S FIRST PAGE
Here it is winter, cold January,
month of turning,
month of slow counting,
birth year death year
days without leaves,
Cold—cold—gray and cold.
Hurry… Hurry… February.
She knew what it was to sorrow by degrees,
the thin extending shadows of her years,
the blank look in the mirror of her eyes.
Oh, she was sad enough to specialize
in winter’s puny light—that tone of gray
that January brings. Each year she vowed
to lift the house with light—to have it
glow and penetrate the winter—still—
she hangs onto her angers like a duty.
She knows what it is to sorrow by degrees.
FOR THE MILLENIUM MOON
The Year Turning, 1999-2000
The white moon shone, its glowing light so near that we
glowed back and touched it with our eyes. The dark sky
listened with intense cold stillness the way that admiration
does. The lost cry in the universe became found. It was
round and thin, and sometimes hard to bear, the way pain
or love is. We were driving in a car—then we were standing
in a driveway—but all the while we watched the moon and
remarked on it: Like white neon—Like shell—Like skim milk—
Like a moon that clung to us with its light—Like a skin. We
shivered , but we praised winter for its mildness. We became
vague with praise. We wanted more light. We mesmerized
the sky with our watching. We took the moon down for our
strangeness—touched it, held it, let it go—our cold balloon
that drifted back into place while we mourned the effect it
had on us—last moon of the century. For the rest of our lives
its light stayed on our hands. We touched each other.
(Sestina Sonnet after “A Colloquy of Silences”
by Michael Heffernan)
Forgive the wanderlust of stones. They move
like shadows over unrelenting years.
They settle against dim light and barely breathe.
Be patient like the stones. They do not know
you grieve. Nor care. They do not even know
you study them for patience when you move
from loss to loss, and even forget to breathe
till numbness wears off. Do not count the years
as many or few. Time will count the years
for you. There’s healing in the way you know
how stones do not consider how they breathe—
nor do they know that shadows make them move
in moving time. They do not gauge the years
that breathe through them. Time is what they know.
A YEARN OF STAYING
When she looks down the long trail of the world
—or only of this place, and the road dwindles,
and she feels abandoned—when did she hesi-
tate? And where is better than here? And
why must decision fail, or seem to fail?
The road is a test, as staying is a test.
But she has such a yearning, for all
things wondered, for answers
without question. What traps
her now in this pose of rest-
less wondering: The road
she is on is the road she
was always on, but it
narrows now into a
tiny horizon, as if
it ends there.
SCENE FROM ONE OF THE YEARS
In this recall, I am drifting through a year of somebody’s
black and white garden. The land stretches out from a
white two-story house. Clouds hang in soft clumps against
a bright gray sky that is held in the distant slowness of my
eyes. If there are others in the world I am removed from
them by this sparse mood of junctured time, though someone
held the camera.
My serious face is caught in an expression that I cannot read.
I have just returned from walking through fields where I went
to see the cows, of which I was afraid. I remember the cows,
how they would turn, each one, to look at me; and I was
small—smaller than my fears, which were many. Someone has
abandoned me to my life with only this remnant to find and hold
me here, waiting for myself to come out of me, but I never do.
OVER THE CLOCKS AND CALENDARS
I must have wrongly-dated
for you complain
that time moves backward now.
I’ve noticed, too,
that you answer questions
before I ask.
And friends who died
drop by to say hello.
What can I say to them?
That I am sorry?
my bewildered ghosts.
And do not come again…)
My letter came to you
and your reply
came through a warp of time
with its sinister prediction.
have not even lived that lie!
I cannot change
my new direction.
My thoughts fly
over the clocks and calendars
as I live backwards
past all those turning
heads and astonished eyes.
(first pub. in Quoin, 1968)
ONE MORE YEAR
That was the year when things went wrong. We made rules
that never lasted. We invented rages. We wrote pages and
pages of promises and never mailed them. We drew eyes
upon our closing faces and looked into the dark; for that was
the year we broke each other’s heart. But we were young
and full of dramatic desperation.
Each way we took was wrong. We rued it later, in long
and violent confessions to some other listener who did not
care, who turned away and made us look to anyone who
might pretend to listen. Once after that—or more than once—
or maybe only some intention, drew us toward the magnet
of an answer: It seemed so clear. All we had to do was love
each other a little longer.
(first pub. in ONE(DOG)PRESS March, 1999)
I took my arrow from the wall
and wondered, which way now, old traveler,
where must I send you now
that I must follow?
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her beautiful poems about the turning of the year, and for her fine photos. Note that our new Seed of the Week is Creatures of the Night. Send your thoughts about that (or any other subject!) to firstname.lastname@example.org. No deadline on SOWS.
Joyce Odam has hundreds, probably thousands of poems published throughout the world. Use her as an inspiration to get more of your poems out into the world as well. Medusa’s green bulletin board ("Submit, I say!") at the right of this column lists just a tiny fraction of the possible venues out there. Make it your New Year’s Resolution to do more research about where to submit, to do more submitting, and to toughen up so rejections don’t discourage you. The more submitting you do, the more acceptances you have, and that’s a fact.
One place to start is Medusa’s Kitchen: if you’ve never submitted to the Kitchen, do it today! (That’s email@example.com) If you already have submitted, send more!!! The snakes of Medusa are always hungry………
And this Friday, New Year’s Day, check out the first Spoken Word Night (Jazz-Beat) of 2016 at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St., Davis, 7pm, including Marque Azrael Emil Cass, John Natsoulas, Ted Fontaine, and CJ Borges. Seating is limited, though, so get there early.