2014 sits quietly behind us now, visible only in the rearview mirror. It was a year of wonder and perplexity, of stunning achievements and tragic losses, of delight and terribleness, and all of this both personal and global, sometimes seeming all at once. As we roll into 2015, perhaps it feels a little like the woman on the gurney, grabbing the door to the delivery room as she’s wheeled in and exclaiming, “Wait. Let’s talk about this.”
The future rolling out before us captivates us with anticipation at the same time as it can unnerve us with its uncertainty. For now, let’s go with the anticipation, revel in the thoughts of good things to come. “We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear, / And that’s the burden of the year.” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)
Here are five great poems to mark the New Year, and new beginnings.
1. Two Gates
I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.
I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.
— Denise Low, author of Ghost Stories of the New West
2. Leaves stick
to my black wool gloves.
on my winter face.
I shake last year’s residue
into the wheel barrow.
—L.L. Barkat, from Love, Etc.
3. The Hard Way
If I were
one foot small
I would use
those bolts like
a climbing wall
inch myself up
grasp the rope
sound the bell
’til one inside
showed up to
bear me through
that door that
was clearly open
the whole time
You spin, and the whole world turns
upside down. Roots become growth
until one someday you have a brass
plate on an inauspiciously solid door.
The tarnished keyhole makes you blue.
You fancy knocking again, like the idea
of being positioned for things to happen.
Just look and see! You are where you are
supposed to be. What is directly in front
of you is nothing, really, but your choice.
Don’t think for a second you have to have
experience. You can tell your story on one
knee, with one eye pressed against glass,
whenever you hear it. Make your vision
wide-angled; imagination becomes the lens.
You only need broad daylight to consider
5. The Year
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox, for more see The Heart of the New Thought
Photo by Kelly Sikkema, Creative Commons license via Flickr.
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