January 1, 2009

Here is a poem for the new year:


 New Year, Fairbanks



From here the air,

stiff with cold and dark—

the stain of absence,

the weight that’s left behind

when heat seeps out of the day–

seems firm enough to walk on,

as if we could climb up it

star by star

see glimmering, distant,

the warmer buzz of cities.


From this empty place,

we jet out over the teeth

of the Alaska Range, scoot down

along the flecked coast

of the Inside Passage-

white islands, dark sea,

the pale waves echoing out–

south to an imaginary land. 


You tell me

the density of cities

uplifts you.  Your eyes scale

the sides of buildings,

your ears strain

for the chatter

of people passing there. 

They walk without a cushion

between skin and air–

the flimsy fabrics cling to them

or float behind them

as they move. 


What can we say to them,


I wonder.

What substitute for air

smooth as silver,

the scrub of snow,

the solace of long night. 

Winter stillness is enough, I say. 


You say the jitter of traffic,

the metallic smoke of air,

the sudden uprush

of many breaths together,

the privacy of the crowded street,

completes you.


In a dark room,

we toast the New Year.

Outside, a curve of green light

spreads across the sky. 

The house walls pop with cold.

Your thoughts hurtle away. 

On the screen,

a ball slides down a pole. 

The air glitters with colored paper;

someone hollers;

someone pulls him back.  


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