Last Year’s Ashes
What better way to make amends
For all that we had failed to do,
Then place the past upon the pyre
We set to bid the year adieu,
So gathered with those we hold dear
We set our fodder to combust
To celebrate, commiserate
The annual turn with those we trust.
And he that built the tangled tower,
And touched the tip of match to blaze,
Had fashioned it from what was left
Of how he filled his working days;
A transom torn, lattice of lath,
The wreck and dreck of homes worn through,
Then ripped asunder to lay bare
The ground for ones to grow anew.
As flame joined flame they curled and swirled
Round every beaten board and beam,
And vanquished hosts of ghosts released
From timbers’ memories into steam;
A window case from where one looked
On white and ice and hoped for spring,
A threshold crossed by feet that fled
An angry word to slip its sting.
And here a plank pulled from a floor
That met the first step of a child,
Was lost to sparks that licked and leapt
From stick to slat as burn blew wild,
And there shot shingles in a shower
Of coals, their work as roof now done,
No more to shelter those within
From solstice snow, from solstice sun.
And then the wood that stood was gone
And conflagration raged as king,
As fuel and air and our desire
Turned fire into a living thing,
We cheered to hear the monster roar
Against December’s last moon’s glow,
We cheered to watch last year’s woes soar
To die where all our lost dreams go.
We counted down while looking up
To toast the brilliant bursts and sing
Our bliss for this new natal night,
And all the joy next year might bring,
And while our laughter, speech and song
Joined with the crackling canticle,
The popping corks and spilling coals
Kept brimming hearts and glasses full.
Too soon the moon began to brush
The finest tines of trees below,
And ruby rage began to fade
To quilted mound of embers’ glow,
Though gray and rust dusted its shell,
The coral core baked hot as sin
Like we who witnessed, age could not
Dampen the fire that burns within.
At last we drew our circle close
Around a powdered, papered hill
And though no flicker could be found,
It still dispelled the evening’s chill
With warm embrace we parted ways
With those that make our days most dear
And left those promises not kept
Among the ashes from last year.