Saturday, December 29, 2012

Poems about The New Year: Playlist for December 28, 2012


To the New Year

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927  

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning
 

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughan Williams
 
 

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye b. 1952
 

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.  

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,  

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air. 
 

So much of any year is flammable,  

lists of vegetables, partial poems.  

Orange swirling flame of days,  

so little is a stone.  

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,  

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.  

I begin again with the smallest numbers.  

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,  

only the things I didn’t do  

crackle after the blazing dies.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The New Yeere's Gift by Anthony Holborne
 
 
 
 
January, 1795

By Mary Robinson 1758–1800
 

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,

Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;

Titled gluttons dainties carving,

Genius in a garret starving.  

 

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;

Courtiers cringing and voracious;

Misers scarce the wretched heeding;

Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding. 

 

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;

Theatres, and meeting-houses;

Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;

Hospitals, and groans of anguish. 

 

Arts and sciences bewailing;

Commerce drooping, credit failing;

Placemen mocking subjects loyal;

Separations, weddings royal.

 

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;

Many a subtle rogue a winner;

Fugitives for shelter seeking;

Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking 

 

Taste and talents quite deserted;

All the laws of truth perverted;

Arrogance o’er merit soaring;

Merit silently deploring. 

 

Ladies gambling night and morning;

Fools the works of genius scorning;

Ancient dames for girls mistaken,

Youthful damsels quite forsaken. 

 

Some in luxury delighting;

More in talking than in fighting;

Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;

Lordlings empty and insipid.

 

Poets, painters, and musicians;

Lawyers, doctors, politicians:

Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,

Seeking fame by diff’rent roads. 

 

Gallant souls with empty purses;

Gen’rals only fit for nurses;

School-boys, smit with martial spirit,

Taking place of vet’ran merit. 

 

Honest men who can’t get places,

Knaves who shew unblushing faces;

Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;

Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Bagatelle Op. 33, No. 2 by L.van Beethoven


 

 

Year’s End

By Richard Wilbur b. 1921

 

Now winter downs the dying of the year,  

And night is all a settlement of snow;

From the soft street the rooms of houses show  

A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,  

Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin  

And still allows some stirring down within.  

 

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake

The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell  

And held in ice as dancers in a spell  

Fluttered all winter long into a lake;  

Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,  

They seemed their own most perfect monument.  

 

There was perfection in the death of ferns  

Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone  

A million years. Great mammoths overthrown  

Composedly have made their long sojourns,  

Like palaces of patience, in the gray

And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii  

 

The little dog lay curled and did not rise  

But slept the deeper as the ashes rose

And found the people incomplete, and froze  

The random hands, the loose unready eyes  

Of men expecting yet another sun

To do the shapely thing they had not done.  

 

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.  

We fray into the future, rarely wrought

Save in the tapestries of afterthought.

More time, more time. Barrages of applause  

Come muffled from a buried radio.

The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No. 2 (second movement) by Wilhelm Stenhammar
 
 

 “Your Luck Is About To Change”

By Susan Elizabeth Howe b. 1949

(A fortune cookie)

 

Ominous inscrutable Chinese news

to get just before Christmas,

considering my reasonable health,

marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,

career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.

Not bad, considering what can go wrong:

the bony finger of Uncle Sam

might point out my husband,

my own national guard,

and set him in Afghanistan;

my boss could take a personal interest;

the pain in my left knee could spread to my right.

Still, as the old year tips into the new,

I insist on the infant hope, gooing and kicking

his legs in the air. I won't give in

to the dark, the sub-zero weather, the fog,

or even the neighbors' Nativity.

Their four-year-old has arranged

his whole legion of dinosaurs

so they, too, worship the child,

joining the cow and sheep. Or else,

ultimate mortals, they've come to eat

ox and camel, Mary and Joseph,

then savor the newborn babe.
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: 1712 Overture, by P.D.Q. Bach
 
Burning the Old Year


Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.

 

Burning the Old Year


Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.

 

 

Burning the Old Year