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Peter Weltner




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,

spiralling rockets,                               

the racket an attack

on coal-eyed tar-faced red-tongued demons

that riotous cacophony casts back to hell.


Torches glowing

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

toward oblivion,

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,

a yesterday

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!



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