New Year’s Day, the First Hours
Seconds before midnight,
only a few stars shine
round a sliver of the moon
in a flat matte black sky
that at twelve explodes
into fiery sparklers, fountains,
the racket an attack
on coal-eyed tar-faced red-tongued demons
that riotous cacophony casts back to hell.
where they stand
along the strand,
bonfires dimly burning,
revelers seeking sleep,
longing for a deeper night,
sinking into dreams
now evil’s kept at bay,
the beach a safe haven
while the tide is low for a few more hours.
I, you, my love, two old men
strolling late along the sea,
by night’s nether side,
the dark that awaits us,
the ocean char black,
stars, moon having set
below a vanished horizon,
while sky, water flow as one
the obvious world.
New Year’s Day, Dawn
Reborn, the Pacific’s calm
at lowest tide.
Gray, drifting clouds. A psalm-
like tune’s sung beside
the shoreline. As dawn rises slowly
over the hills, the horizon
gleams pale gold. A rite to Laka
is being performed, a ceremony done
in obeisance to Hawaii,
by first light’s aqua
sky, to life and the sea.
Boys, girls dance for the islands, its waters,
as waves dance, wear-
ing bright red flowers
in their hair.
New Year’s Day, Noon
An old man, his hair
like mop strings wrung dry, white,
frayed, his skin so faded and palely fair
his skull sticks through it. He’s no sight
for your eyes on the year’s first day. What fantasies
he erases in you, the past, youthful bodies,
one night stands, orgies, sprees,
you’d best no longer remember. Try to say
something kind to him. He’s lost
the good of his mind but not his gai-
ety. He’s singing on a dune. Or some ghost
of him is. Dancing, prancing, dar-
ing you to mock him or watch him learning how to care.
New Year’s Day, Late Afternoon
This should be no place to learn silence.
Waves crack like ice floes
breaking. Near sunset,
the wind’s a perpetual violence
like a long winter storm’s.
The seawall’s breached and wet.
With apparently no notion
of the danger he’s in,
a kitesurfer flies over the sea.
Whitecaps rise and crash on the ocean
as far as the horizon,
the sun bulbous, clown-face ruddy.
A squall-force gust lifts him up
still higher, carries him over
dunes toward the highway
where the wind means to drop
him, kite deflated, onto the asphalt
for a car to slay
or a pickup truck. Plovers scurry
in ritual circles
mimicking a dirge
above the pounding of the waves, the lee-
ward shrieking of gulls,
their flight a surge
like the sea’s as its waves overflow
the sand-slick busy road.
It’s his, this astonished quiet, the silence
sudden in the stillness afterward,
after people’s screams, brakes’ screeching,
a racing ambulance,
a cop car’s sirens. The winds have died. The ocean
no longer protests. Time’s been subsided,
suspended, is in abstention.
His, the kitesurfer’s, the quiet of sun
and sky, the hush of his girlfriend’s
breathless mute ululation
after she’s heard the news, what’s been done
to them the first day of the year,
who are nothing now. No one. No one.
New Year’s Day, Evening
Two hawks fly over the bluffs, climb
higher to perch in a Monterey pine.
A precipice. Sheer cliffs. Boulders
battered by encroaching waters.
Pelicans appear from nowhere, fly-
ing through mist into a darkening sky.
Hikers pass by toward Land’s End,
read signs, vanish around the bend.
The couple’s old as are their friends.
A late life marriage before life ends.
Here, by the Gate, foghorns moan
like Russian basses their ritual drone.
Like a river in a Noh play, a long, white
cloth’s been laid on the ground for the bride.
A guitar’s played, vows pledged. All shiver
from the wind blown eastward in winter.
The trees’ bark’s been blackened by hard rain.
Evening shadows their faces. They kiss again.
Applause. A few cheers. A gull caws
as it heads for the bridge. A long pause.
The time nears its end. To begin a new life
on the year’s first day as husband, wife.
To live as if we can know what love is.
What it gives or denies. Why sometimes it suffices.
Peter Weltner has published six books of fiction, including The Risk of His Music and How the Body Prays, and, in 2017, The Return of What’s Been Lost, five poetry chapbooks, among them The One-Winged Body and Water’s Eye (both in collaboration with the artist Galen Garwood), and six full length collections of poetry, News from the World at My Birth: A History, The Outerlands, To the Final Cinder, Stone Altars, Late Summer Storm in Early Winter (with photographs and paintings by Galen Garwood), and most recently The Light of the Sun Become Sea. He and his husband live in San Francisco by the ocean.
Danse Macabre was proud to name Peter Weltner our 2017 Artist-in-Residence. Heartfelt thanks to Peter for his generosity in sharing his artistry with us. Cent’anni!