poetry wednesday : burning the old year

By on Jan 2, 2013 | 4 comments

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Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye


Letters swallow themselves in seconds.

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.


So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,

so little is a stone.


Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.

I begin again with the smallest numbers.


Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,

only the things I didn’t do

crackle after the blazing dies.


Poetry is often times a daunting art form, one we’ve had the joy knocked out of by zealous English teachers for whom everything must have a meaning. But it doesn’t have to have a meaning. It can just be sounds that are satisfying to say in a row. Read poems aloud; savor the sounds of the words. That is all. If a crack appears in which meaning can get a foot hold, that’s wonderful–all meaning is personal, not universal. Love that meaning, or love the absence of it, but don’t let experiences of trying to guess the right meaning stop you from relishing what poetry is: flow.


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