My Poem for the New Year

A Talisman of Possibilities

There was a sense of dread and impending doom I carried with me so many wasted days of 2014. Did you ever feel it, too? A balloon of dread tethered invisibly to my wrist, a skulking cloud that accompanied me like a shadow. Tonight is the night we hope to let go of such things. We put on our brave, expectant face for the New Year and hope to let old haunts fade. In Philly, the Mummers will be marching tomorrow down Broad Street. This year they’ll be turning east onto Washington Avenue, passing a stone’s throw from our door as they head to Two Street for the after-party. I don’t know if we’ll end up among them, or at a friend’s house. And I don’t know where I’ll be at the end of 2015, either. I just hope there is joy in the journey.

“Two Street, After the Parade”

The rattle of empties beneath your feet
is drowned by banjo strums and saxophone strains,
hoots and shouts, a glockenspiel’s refrain
of “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers”—a string band mumming
with a group of feathered Fancies
dancing in a riot of orange, purple and red. Alive,
this flash of sequins and Day-Glo parasols,
the bright grime of greasepaint that insulates skin
against the day’s cold drizzling plunge
into the coming night’s gloaming. All around you,
kids hoisted atop shoulders, sticky-fingered,
cotton candy glowing like blue beehive hair-dos bobbing above
the crush of paraders and spectators
all jostling so tightly onto narrow Two Street they merge.
Your breath specters the freezing air.
Today, you take your pleasure in random friends: an invitation
back to someone’s cousin’s house
for homemade meatball hoagies: the lot of you,
the lost of you, threading through tossed kettle corn,
bleating plastic horns, pink webs of Silly String
that knit people together only to come
instantly undone. Back slaps, laughter, a spilled beer
disaster narrowly averted by a frantic gulp.
Maybe next year there won’t be fistfights
at Thanksgiving. Maybe next year
no skipped visits come Christmas. Today, a New Year
pours like whiskey into all the unforgiven
pockets of the old—the lost chances, the missed-outs,
what never was—suddenly brushed aside
by an opening door, a welcome warmth, a stranger’s
unexpected joyful kiss hello:
a talisman of possibilities

–Kelly McQuain

A poem for a Philadelphia New Year, courtesy of The Fox Chase Review.

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