New Year’s Day

Shotgun Blast by Shane Gorski
Shotgun Blast by Shane Gorski

This poem was written for Read Write Poem Prompt #107: Lighting the Way. We were given the above picture as a prompt for this week’s poem.

I have to apologize ahead of time: this poem is rather long. Also, I only wrote about the picture in the final part of the poem. But this poem was inspired by three things: 1) a poem I wrote back in 2008, “Modern Day Jeremiah in Six Sentences”; and two songs by U2, 2) “The Wanderer” and 3) “New Year’s Day” (hence the title of this poem). This poem takes off from and expands on the viewpoint of the speaker in the poem from 2008. I see this is a work about transformation, and appropriate, as we are about to embark on another year. What will we make of it?

Oh, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

— Nicole
I. New Year’s Eve, daytime

I go out walking
under intersecting and parallel lines, messengers
carrying thunderbolt rivers through their black
and metal insides. Across these thin wire men,
a scattered army of sneaks join laced hands and
hang in pairs. These are the names of the dead in
black, white, and red sweatshop leather. Listen
in the wind, above the crack of bright blue cold in the
daylight, and you will hear them: Michael. Levon. Keisha.
Marcus. Darrell. Patricia. James.
I look for ashes to write
my words, to wail angry scriptures in
charcoal rain over my head. God answers me instead with

landing as lambent silver nothings against
the black fringes of hair that erupt from beneath
the folded-up rim of my toboggan hat. I suppose that
ashes are now passé, Lord – but how
do you outwit neon when you are one man,
frozen and dolorous,
dodging nightly tumbles into jail-cell cisterns for
emblazoning yourself as words onto street corners and
tagging warnings on walls in spray-paint over top of
gang-colored street swaggers already written on
every inch of brick and concrete, leaving nothing naked
in this urban phantasm of low-wage, hustle, grime,
and bone?

II. New Year’s Eve, nighttime

I go drifting,
a fringe lunatic staring inside
store windows from the sidewalk. The icy dark
around me is broken by:

pale streetlights like
yellow sick, moons that hang deft and delicious
by metal arms and broadcast endless free-falls of light
to the street below; by

neon junk lines whose
first and only language is scream – electric gas blood,
unnatural rainbows in tubes spelling out
reptilian desire in light-up, raw flesh
words; and by

the wordless, alien glow
from the rows of TV teeth just inside the
store windows that I pass. Plastic cheers and
slurred laughter like falling sanity cough up around
my ears. Someone ejaculates sparkling wine stinking of cheap in
my direction. It lands and hisses its fizz on my cheek; I
wipe it off with the back of my gloved hand and pause
before another window, lit and crowded with still more
TV sets. There is no one inside near the window, so I
pull out my instant free press, a can of liquid
sentiment in a shade of bright, insulting blue
and spray tonight’s words –
you all are serfs!
in large, round-shouldered capitals. More little frozen armies of
six-pointed elegance fall from the sky and onto my head
as I shout in spray-paint – but a blue-shirted drone
spots me from the back of the store and runs towards the
door. Capping my can, I forgo the luxury of an exclamation point
and run.

III. New Year’s Day, early evening

I go out riding
on the city busses full-bellied with
sweat merchant cogs of flesh and bone and
cliquant playthings with amber waves of
fried hair – some fresh crowns of washed out sallow,
some with thin strips of brown and black at their centers. I think
of the match girl – a girl with the same fried fire hair and
arms addled with silver needle Braille – who collapsed in the stairwell
of the square concrete apartment building where I
slept last night. She didn’t see me, and neither did
the man watching her light up her last in confused awe
as she burned her final visions away, match by
match. When he walked out the door, I looked through the
miserable little square of glass seated in its heavy gray metal
and saw a star die, trailing its life behind it
in tiny spectacle. I also saw snowflakes landing on him. They
encrusted his hair and coruscated, chaotic and delicate,
like shattered diamond galaxies in a black sky, as he walked away
into the dying night. A few blocks away,
passels of drunks barked, whooped, and slurred
to celebrate the dying year.

IV. Destination

I go out searching
for someplace to hide from the smack of the wind, that
frozen devil that threatens to slice my skin away in
blue and black. Another square derelict heaven rises
in cinderblock out of the snow-choked grass. I enter,
cracking gravel under my boots, and look to the wall,
hoping for golden glyphs glowing across its face –
but I find more street songs in
spray-paint instead. So I
cross the creaking floor, walking over dead wood,
ripped and splintered beams nailed together and bent into fetal
from their fall –

and see the exit of this day,
unfolding its arms through the window. It sprays
golden spokes of light in every direction. It casts
saffron rays of straight-line incense from its censer, its
burning belly. I sit underneath its fulgent blessing and watch

tumble in through the open window: some land
on the windowsill of nude, broken wood where I rest my arm,
and some land on me – my clothes, my hands, and
my hair. A sideways glance out into the deepening sky and
to the small, straggly swarms of skin-clothed God breaths, and I see
the snowflakes falling on them as they fall upon
me. I suppose I am more meant for blessing than for
ashes, more meant for life than death, more meant
for love than disgust. Very well, Lord. I will begin

Written 12/29/09 and 12/30/09
© 2009 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

Stumble It!
Stumble It!


About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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6 Responses to New Year’s Day

  1. Tumblewords says:

    Interesting piece. It conjures up many an image and a few errant thoughts, as well. Nice!

  2. Linda says:

    This poem has an abundance of rich imagery as it takes the reader on a journey of winter encounters. There are some stunning tableaus through out it’s course. Thank you for sharing this Nicole. I hope the coming year is rich in love and joy for you!

  3. Erin says:

    I enjoyed walking, drfiting, riding, and searching through this poem. Thanks!

  4. Paul Oakley says:

    Another triumph, Nicole! I love your ready vocabulary with such jeweled words as lambent and fulgent. Wonderful observation on “neon junk lines whose first and only language is scream.” I love the hint of the pornographic assault on New Year’s Eve: “Someone ejaculates sparkling wine stinking of cheap in/ my direction. It lands and hisses its fizz on my cheek.” But best of all, the “exit of the day, exploding, unfolding its arms through the window.”

    Very nice, Nicole.

  5. Dang… I just read this without coming up for air, and it was a test of endurance. Absolutely stunning; reminds me very much of Ginsberg’s “Howl”. You bring so many images and emotions to life with such rich descriptions… I’m in awe. Well done! 🙂

  6. Thank you, EVERYONE, for stopping by and reading. I know this is one of my more “epic length” pieces, and I thank you for your willingness to dive in and explore.

    @Linda: The first stanza came to me one morning after we got a nice dumping of snow and hit with a deep freeze here in Ohio, when I noticed just how many pairs of sneakers hang on wires in my neighborhood. I wonder how much of the idea that they herald someone’s death is true and how much is urban legend. My character is assuming it’s true. I picture him as kind of like a cross between the prophet Jeremiah and Don Quixote, with a latent tendency to turn every female junkie into Dulcinea. That hasn’t been expressed quite yet, thought. Another poem, maybe.

    @Paul: The pornographic reference was quite by accident. I used the word “ejaculate” because that’s how I pictured the wine shooting out of the bottle. Initially, I didn’t make any connection except at surface value between that and the cheap wine landing on his cheek — in short, I wasn’t thinking of “bukkake” flicks when I wrote that. Sometimes, it’s easy to surprise yourself with what slinks out of your mind. Freud would probably have a field day with me.

    @Joseph: Thank you! It took me two days to write this, and it wiped me out on the first day alone…the hardest thing was making sure the time sequences made sense and that the poem flowed well from section to section.

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