Poem for the Old Year

Poem for the Old Year

For the new year, Tessa Rumsey’s “Poem for the Old Year.” I’ve loved this poem unreasonably since I read it at the desk of my first job in New York 16 years ago. Happy New Year!

Poem for the Old Year
January. The archer aims at himself.
His target is the eye of a fish. River
is frozen. Field rises in mists of lost
desire and steams the sealed sky open.
Fish be ruby-weeping. Fish be nailed
through scale onto door of silver birch.
Over the mountain beaten boy searches
for his teeth inside a clump of brambles.
The sound of thorns through his skin
 is mercy. The sound of a beautiful fish
being nailed to a door is mercy, mercy.
Nobody knows the origin of music,
or who wind pitches for between rock
and rock like a bronco heart kicking
in its cage. Breeze seduces bow. Bow
abandons arrow. Boy finds shelter
in thicket and hears music of his breath
through ugly, twisted thistles. Come
home. It’s time to begin again. A boy
is nailed to the door and a fish is aimed
at an archer, mountain is weeping rubies
onto frozen river while wind grinds
two new teeth. Who are you 
inside the music of another’s suffering?
When I was a nail I loved only
the hammer. When I was a breeze I died
on a door. When I was a fish
I swam without knowing not yet, or last
breath, or shore.

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