Poems for the New Year
Playlist by Verse 5 poems
Happy New Year from Verse! Classic and modern, earnest and sardonic, here are five wildly varied poets' takes on the occasion.
1. New Year’s Day
Kim Addonizio
2. To the New Year
W. S. Merwin
3. New Year's Eve
Thomas Hardy
4. New Year
H. P. Nichols
5. New Year's Dawn - Broadway
Sara Teasdale
The rain this morning falls
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
on the West Coast. Here in Virginia

I walk across the fields with only
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never
spoke, who kept their heads

lowered and their arms crossed against
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it.
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
"I have finished another year," said God,
"In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down."

"And what's the good of it?" I said.
"What reasons made you call
From formless void this earth we tread,
When nine-and-ninety can be read
Why nought should be at all?

"Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, 'who in
This tabernacle groan' -
If ever a joy be found herein,
Such joy no man had wished to win
If he had never known!"

Then he: "My labours - logicless -
You may explain; not I:
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess
That I evolved a Consciousness
To ask for reasons why.

"Strange that ephemeral creatures who
By my own ordering are,
Should see the shortness of my view,
Use ethic tests I never knew,
Or made provision for!"

He sank to raptness as of yore,
And opening New Year's Day
Wove it by rote as theretofore,
And went on working evermore
In his unweeting way.
If I resolve, with the new year,
    A better child to be,
'Twill do no good at all, I fear,
    But rather harm to me,

Unless I try, with every day,
    No angry word to speak;
Unless, each morn, to God I pray
    To keep me mild and meek.

Then let me try with all my might,
    And may God help me too,
Always to choose the way that's right,
    Whatever act I do.
When the horns wear thin
And the noise, like a garment outworn,
Falls from the night,
The tattered and shivering night,
That thinks she is gay;
When the patient silence comes back,
And retires,
And returns,
Rebuffed by a ribald song,
Wounded by vehement cries,
Fleeing again to the stars
Ashamed of her sister the night;
Oh, then they steal home,
The blinded, the pitiful ones
With their gew-gaws still in their hands,
Reeling with odorous breath
And thick, coarse words on their tongues.
They get them to bed, somehow,
And sleep the forgiving,
Comes thru the scattering tumult
And closes their eyes.
The stars sink down ashamed
And the dawn awakes,
Like a youth who steals from a brothel,
Dizzy and sick.