Here, yes, oh yes, two New Year’s poems by David Helwig, lines from which should be repeated at midnight and can/should be burned into your minds henceforth: “…every one of the dead lived, and every instant of their time rang like this, ours, now.”
David’s work has graced these pages from nearly the beginning (nigh on a year now–the NC first anniversary is January 11), including his poems “La Rentrée” and “Stars” and his lovely translation of Chekhov’s short story “About Love.” I am never sure whether or not to reintroduce people here again and again. Many of you know who David is–old friend, prolific writer of everything, Order of Canada, founding editor of Best Canadian Stories, new dog owner, generous contributor to Numéro Cinq. The rest of you read the new poems and look at his earlier pieces. These poems happen to coincide with the very recent arrival in my mail box of David’s latest book, a collection called Mystery Stories.
Happy New Year!
Impromptus for the New Year: December 2010
By David Helwig
In a brilliant patchwork of greens, moss, lichen, leaf
shed brightness on the damply haunted winter day.
Thin black twigs prick the dimly opalescent sky
over a gloom of woods where the roaming black dog
yips and flushes a snowshoe hare, white in phase with
the cycle of the year’s darkening, useless pale
winter fur in desperate flight across the un-
seasonable snowless landscape, grey trunks, branches,
conifers hung with grey-green strands of old man’s beard.
A sodden winter too is an incarnation,
where tremors of time occur, scant, slack, offering
what is least likely to burn, a flame in damp wood.
All vision shivers in the accidental gaps
of early twilight on this narrow long path,
as the black dog races out of sight. Silence, like
a pause in music, offers stillness and resolve.
We have posed calendars against infinity,
the major and minor scales and counterpoint,
that law of two remaining two, being one.
It is said that the wise travel to map their return.
Detail defies the approach of incoherence,
like our numbering of days. Moss, trees, lichen
recite a winter creed: every one of the dead lived,
and every instant of their time rang like this, ours, now.
Morning sunlight falls on the eventual snow,
and the dog stirs, black upon white, in the maze
of thin spruce, the path tracked and retracked by the night’s
dance of hares, and my old legs climb over a fallen trunk.
How many generations long is a long life?
Do we count by decades or some definition
of attitude? Has love a new way of being?
You are, she said, better at questions than answers.
Blown snow and bright ice, the young trees bend low
under the weight of it. A fox has left fresh tracks.
To be wild is to be hungry, short-lived, cold, wet,
breeding desperately to salvage the species.
Ask the young to explain. The lively black puppy
leads me through the new snow of her world, obeys,
though she can outrun me on any footing.
The cold wind sings in the bright air all around us.