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A poem for the new year by Reader poetry editor Joseph O’Brien

“Valediction Forbidding Nostalgia: New Year’s Eve”

For Cecilia

It’s a party like any other

We’ve ever been wallpapered and rugged

Into — the food and drink disarrayed, the bother

And mess left behind in the hosts’ kitchen

For tomorrow and tomorrow and, well, later tomorrow.

After dinner, the guests began to re-mingle,

Become further watered and drugged

By nostalgia as strong as the champagne

And steep wines timed to release all our sorrow.

The married cluster apart from the single

And standing between, Janus

And I, reflecting a window between us,

The end of December and a year.

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The sun closes down early behind the darkness

In the large French doors that bless

Our hosts’ ravaged entrées.

In my leaning length, I am standing there

And my full reflection embarrasses me.

I look away but not before spying

Your pretty, conversational face

Engaged with a friend in pleasantry.

Lustrous with solemnity’s finesse.

I pretend to be chasing after you (you lying

On the bed of my brow in age

And bounty), that you are a new conquest,

And I sidle up in mock-false courage

To ask our friend your name.

You roll your eyes at the jest

And stop short of a chuckle

Before returning to the same

Conversation you were having with our friend

At some point between midnight’s middle

And year’s end.

The bells on television count off,

Refresh in a strange way,

Satisfy the bones, the blood, the flesh enough –

A rush of time, a new year, new month, another day….

Then for a moment, real terror –

The thought crosses my mind, a soft buzzing,

Like a computer coughing up an error,

The eyes go blurry, fuzzing

Around the edges

Like the translucent albumen

In a pan

Beginning to cook

White toward the yolk.

What if my life,

More than a practical joke,

Was a series of walks along the ledges

(I can’t help with each step to shake myself and look)

Of high buildings, all the windows locked?

Would I be as shocked

To discover that you were not really my wife?

But it dawns on me that you must

Be my wife — memory is one sign

That these years have not been in vain —

And the other? The thin frigid gust

That, nudging aside the curtain,

Squeezes through the cracked seal of a windowpane.

Yes, you too, winter — please, please, come in.

Take shelter from this year’s last night sky.

Why,

Not even January is as certain.

Joseph O'Brien

Joseph O’Brien is poetry editor of The San Diego Reader.

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For Cecilia

It’s a party like any other

We’ve ever been wallpapered and rugged

Into — the food and drink disarrayed, the bother

And mess left behind in the hosts’ kitchen

For tomorrow and tomorrow and, well, later tomorrow.

After dinner, the guests began to re-mingle,

Become further watered and drugged

By nostalgia as strong as the champagne

And steep wines timed to release all our sorrow.

The married cluster apart from the single

And standing between, Janus

And I, reflecting a window between us,

The end of December and a year.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The sun closes down early behind the darkness

In the large French doors that bless

Our hosts’ ravaged entrées.

In my leaning length, I am standing there

And my full reflection embarrasses me.

I look away but not before spying

Your pretty, conversational face

Engaged with a friend in pleasantry.

Lustrous with solemnity’s finesse.

I pretend to be chasing after you (you lying

On the bed of my brow in age

And bounty), that you are a new conquest,

And I sidle up in mock-false courage

To ask our friend your name.

You roll your eyes at the jest

And stop short of a chuckle

Before returning to the same

Conversation you were having with our friend

At some point between midnight’s middle

And year’s end.

The bells on television count off,

Refresh in a strange way,

Satisfy the bones, the blood, the flesh enough –

A rush of time, a new year, new month, another day….

Then for a moment, real terror –

The thought crosses my mind, a soft buzzing,

Like a computer coughing up an error,

The eyes go blurry, fuzzing

Around the edges

Like the translucent albumen

In a pan

Beginning to cook

White toward the yolk.

What if my life,

More than a practical joke,

Was a series of walks along the ledges

(I can’t help with each step to shake myself and look)

Of high buildings, all the windows locked?

Would I be as shocked

To discover that you were not really my wife?

But it dawns on me that you must

Be my wife — memory is one sign

That these years have not been in vain —

And the other? The thin frigid gust

That, nudging aside the curtain,

Squeezes through the cracked seal of a windowpane.

Yes, you too, winter — please, please, come in.

Take shelter from this year’s last night sky.

Why,

Not even January is as certain.

Joseph O'Brien

Joseph O’Brien is poetry editor of The San Diego Reader.

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