Happy New Year!
Welcoming January 2016 – Part I of II
January is named after the Roman god Janus, derived from the Latin word for door (“ianua”), since January is the door to the year. In the words of one historian, “In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.”
Musings in Winter: Cavett Robert
A Poem for Today
“The Old Year,”
By John Clare
The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known by none.
All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall–
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.
Musings in Winter: Helen Keller
A Second Poem for Today
“After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa,”
By Robert Hass
Musings in Winter: William Shakespeare
A Third Poem for Today
“Burning the Old Year,”
By Naomi Shihab Nye
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.
Musings in Winter: Goran Persson
“Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“January Morning – XII,”
By William Carlos Williams
Musings in Winter: Samuel Pepys
“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“No Possum, No Sop, No Taters,”
By Wallace Stevens
He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep.
The field is frozen. The leaves are dry.
Bad is final in this light.
In this bleak air the broken stalks
Have arms without hands. They have trunks
Without legs or, for that, without heads.
They have heads in which a captive cry
Is merely the moving of a tongue.
Snow sparkles like eyesight falling to earth,
Like seeing fallen brightly away.
The leaves hop, scraping on the ground.
It is deep January. The sky is hard.
The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.
It is in this solitude, a syllable,
Out of these gawky flitterings,
Intones its single emptiness,
The savagest hollow of winter-sound.
It is here, in this bad, that we reach
The last purity of the knowledge of good.
The crow looks rusty as he rises up.
Bright is the malice in his eye . . .
Musings in Winter: Jean-Paul Sartre
“To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“New Year’s Poem,”
By Margaret Avison
The Christmas twigs crispen and needles rattle
Along the window-ledge.
A solitary pearl
Shed from the necklace spilled at last week’s party
Lies in the suety, snow-luminous plainness
Of morning, on the window-ledge beside them.
And all the furniture that circled stately
And hospitable when these rooms were brimmed
With perfumes, furs, and black-and-silver
Crisscross of seasonal conversation, lapses
Into its previous largeness.
Anne’s rose-sweet gravity, and the stiff grave
Where cold so little can contain;
I mark the queer delightful skull and crossbones
Starlings and sparrows left, taking the crust,
And the long loop of winter wind
Smoothing its arc from dark Arcturus down
To the bricked corner of the drifted courtyard,
And the still window-ledge.
Gentle and just pleasure
It is, being human, to have won from space
This unchill, habitable interior
Which mirrors quietly the light
Of the snow, and the new year.
Musings in Winter: Tom Peters
Musings in Winter: Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
Musings in Winter: E. M. Forster
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Tess Gallagher
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
Welcoming January 2016 – Part II of II
January: A time of gates and passages, an invitation to honor the past and look to the future, an occasion for endings and beginnings – a month for journeys both inner and outer, for creative enterprises, and, above all, for hope. Welcome, wonderful January.