A Poem for the New Year

I have a poem and a picture I want to share with you to usher in 2013.

Maybe it’s an odd choice (the poem) because it has nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions and everything to do with a new way of seeing, yet isn’t that what a new year is for? I, like many others, have external things in my life I want to see change, but I think equally important is all the internal stuff — the place I look out from when I look at and respond to the world. I don’t want this place to be static.

I love this poem because it shows movement — internally. You can tell this from reading the title. How the speaker saw light at 32 is not how he saw it at 25 or 18, and not how he will see it at 40, 57, 86. We could all write our own versions of this poem at our various stages. This is his.

Light, At Thirty-Two by Michael Blumenthal

It is the first thing God speaks of
when we meet Him, in the good book
of Genesis. And now, I think
I see it all in terms of light:

How, the other day at dusk
on Ossabaw Island, the marsh grass
was the color of the most beautiful hair
I had ever seen, or how—years ago
in the early-dawn light of Montrose Park—
I saw the most ravishing woman
in the world, only to find, hours later
over drinks in a dark bar, that it
wasn’t she who was ravishing,
but the light: how it filtered
through the leaves of the magnolia
onto her cheeks, how it turned
her cotton dress to silk, her walk
to a tour-jeté.

And I understood, finally,
what my friend John meant,
twenty years ago, when he said: Love
is keeping the lights on. And I understood
why Matisse and Bonnard and Gauguin
and Cézanne all followed the light:
Because they knew all lovers are equal
in the dark, that light defines beauty
the way longing defines desire, that
everything depends on how light falls
on a seashell, a mouth … a broken bottle.

And now, I’d like to learn
to follow light wherever it leads me,
never again to say to a woman, YOU
are beautiful, but rather to whisper:
Darling, the way light fell on your hair
this morning when we woke—God,
it was beautiful. Because, if the light is right,
then the day and the body and the faint pleasures
waiting at the window … they too are right.
All things lovely there. As that first poet wrote,
in his first book of poems: Let there be light.

Inspired by the poem, I took this photograph the other day, fascinated how light plays images like hands play sounds                                                                                     these are the faint pleasures waiting at my window                                                          the space I play, write, wonder                                                                                        this picture is my poem to light                                                                                          an entrance to the new year

keys to my world

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6 thoughts on “A Poem for the New Year

  1. LOVE the picture! I like the poem too — interesting the dynamic between beauty and light. For some reason I got this image of you as an English prof as I was reading this post : )) — I guess I could just imagine you analyzing poetry/literature and really getting into it with your students! hehe

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