Happy New Year to All My Medium Friends
With a Poem Better Than Any of Mine!
I occasionally see fellow Mediumites sharing poems by famous people that express a feeling so well there’s just no point in writing your own… So that’s my New Years gift to everyone, a poem by my buddy and favorite poet David Clewell. David and I have been friends for 28 years this year, so I don’t think he’ll mind me wiping the snow off my boots on his copyright this morning… Especially since this poem already appears in several places online. If you read this, Thanks, David! I owe you one!
New Year’s Eve Letter to Friends
by David Clewell
Every year the odds are stacked against it
turning out the way you’d like:
a year of smooth, a year of easy smile,
a year like a lake you could float on,
looking up at a blue year of soothing sky.
Mostly the letters you’re expecting never come.
Lovers walk out and keep on going
and in no time they’re no friend of yours.
Mostly, the sheer weight of days
gone awfully wrong: a tire blown out,
someone’s heart caving in,
the hole worn finally through the roof.
Sometimes it’s only a few tenacious cells
digging in against complete dissolve.
The smallest strand of DNA, stretched thin
over thousands of years, goes taut
and finally holds.
I’ve watched men at the Mission staring out
into the middle distance,
putting up with the latest version of salvation,
all the time wondering just
how long until the bowl and spoon.
They’ve been around long enough to know
the good part’s always saved for last and
there’s no promise they won’t make to get there.
Each year cuts our life down to size,
to something we can almost use. So we find it
somewhere in our hearts: another ring shows up
when we lay open the cross-section.
One more hard line in the hand
spreading slowly out of its clench.
It used to be the world was so small
You could walk out to the end of it
and back in a single day. Now it seems
to take all year to make it mostly back.
And so this is for my friends all over:
a new year. Year the longshot comes home.
The year letters pour in, full of the good word
that never got as far as you before.
The year lovers come to know a good thing
When they find it in the press of familiar flesh.
Walk out onto the planet tonight. Even the moon
is giving back your share of borrowed light
and you take it back, in the name of everything
you can’t take back in your life.
Imagine yourself filling with it,
letting yourself go and floating
through the skeleton trees to your place
at the top of the sky.
And here’s the best part, coming last,
just after all your practiced shows of faith.
Even now, while you’re still salvaging
what passes for resolve.
Remember this, no matter what else happens:
this year you’ll never go without.
It’s no small thing you’ve been in line for,
this bowl and spoon passed finally to you.
from BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE, Viking, 1991
David Clewell has published seven collections of poems–most recently, The Low End of Higher Things — and two booklength poems (The Conspiracy Quartet and Jack Ruby’s America). His work has appeared regularly in a wide variety of magazines, including Harper’s, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, Ontario Review, New Letters, and Yankee. His poetry is represented in five-dozen anthologies. He’s been the recipient of the Pollak Poetry Prize (for Now We’re Getting Somewhere) and the Lavan Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His Blessings in Disguise was a winner in the National Poetry Series.
Clewell teaches poetry workshops (introductory and advanced), 19th & 20th C. literature, and topics-in-poetry seminars at Webster University in St. Louis. He directs the Creative Writing program and coordinates the attendant Visiting Writer Series, which he started in 1986.