Today's poem is by Sandra Kohler

The New Years


Mottled March. The sky patched.
White light clear as cold water coming
down from the mountains where it is ice.
How frightened I am, on the cusp of spring.
To change, to do something new in early March,
near the equinox, day still less than night,
to move before the seasons: precipitate,
wise. Everything hinges on nerve,
courage, everything.

This morning hope is thrusting
like the sleeping bulbs, unreasonable
as the body's movements in sleep,
dense and inexplicable as dream.
The future I can't imagine has nothing
to do with place, the small town of loneliness,
the city of isolation. The old woman
I am becoming is alien to all
the streets I walk, imagine walking.

A new month, new job, new page.
Old self. Like my son last night acting
a younger child, cranky, fretful, unable
to sleep. Waking at five with a great cry.
What is waking in him, budding
disturbance, change in his being?

The new page is grace. The coffee steaming
in the cup, the cup in my hands is grace.
The man who brings the cup. Some difference
we feel from day to day that cannot be explained,
that subsists. There is music in the house, voices.
The low voices of boys on the cusp of change—

one trembling before breaking, the other trembling
after. Everything tremulous and alive in us is on
the cusp, like wildflowers at the verge of fields turning
woods, near the snow line on mountains.


First day of an ancient year. I'm sick with the new:
a mild disorder. Even dreaming of old women
I am dreaming about the future. My body longs
for a certainty neither sleep nor waking offers.
It invents a web of fine lies, strung from a central body
of truth, fear, the secretions of a life. A moment
opens to receive this knowledge like the body
of an insect constructed to store some ripe essence
garnered from the flowering world.

Somewhere the family I never found celebrates,
lit candles at sunset, not this amber light
in the blue black dawn. There are herbs and grain,
there are the fruits of harvest. This is the family
discovered by the ceremonies of regret, decades
of failed reconciliation. In it all gestures lose their
beautiful inadequacy, echoes complete our broken
speech. I hug this image to my breast.
The indeterminate color of sky between trees
tells me I clutch what vanishes.

Yesterday when the front arrived and temperatures
dropped fifteen degrees in an hour, the rain raised
a dust that smelled like the harvest of all autumns;
thick crushed grain of pollen, burnt leaves, fallen leaves,
detritus drying into the streets, powdered by feet,
now this cold rain falling on hot dust, sharp release
of its grainy essence into the cool travelling air.


In the small towns of our origins
there are Christmas lights still up
strung on branches we couldn't reach
in the time of our longing for height.
There are trunks we never opened, high doors
at the top of stairs that lead to abandoned
treasure, there are faces grown grave and tender
as the last face and the first. There are children
who have never grown, held fast in the terrible
magic of being children.

On the last night of the old year
I dream the seasons: speeded up
transformation on an enormous screen: spring
moving through summer, autumn, winter,
spring. The next image is a furious sea, hungry
towering waves. We are hedged by violent ends,
wilderness: a little island surrounded by
wild pinelands. A boy who runs out beyond
the fence for a missing ball never returns.
Is this our home or our prison? Nothing
as absolute as home, nothing as pure
as prison; only the one felt always
as both; there is no separation.

One, one. We lay down together: one, one.
We rise together: one, one. There is one star
in the east: Venus rising before the rising sun,
brilliant in the reflected rush of color.
And there is another nameless, smaller star,
higher, dimmer.
        And there is the sun,
hidden but pervasive, the whole east
announcing its coming. And there is the year
unknown but casting its light, its opening,
becoming a wide white sky, a world
of horizon.

Copyright © 2002 Sandra Kohler All rights reserved
from Elixir
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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