Old Year Psalm by Calvin Ahlgren

Leaves by Gene Wilburn
Leaves by Gene Wilburn

Old Year Psalm

by Calvin Ahlgren

Shuffling and crab-stepping out of sight,
the Old Year plays a pissy music—
downpours, thunder tantrums, ninja-wind
that prowls and growls and slaps loose shingles on the roof.
Two fences over to west, bronze and granite headstones
hunker down above the settled dead.
Stone mushrooms brooding over bone mycelia.
Overhead in the blind sky a prop plane labors through
a gap of silence
gradually plugged
with engine drone.

What can the pilot see, buffeted
in that thunder-blanket? What’s he doing up there,
at a time sane folk seek shelter? Tossed literally
in terror, maybe flushing up his past (the kind
that wracks us all inside). He can’t look down
and spot the backs of mule deer,
wet fur snug in brush somewhere, or see
coyotes, foxes, bobcats, pumas. Raptors
furloughed by the storm. All hidden
from the man-thing in the wilderness above,
dragging an unstable sky for clarity.

The young dog on the counterpane at my feet
calmly tracks the turbulence, head high,
eyes vigilant. What she hears I’ll never know,
and neither can she reckon the walled thunderheads and lightning gashes
in my heart, my skies that gall
with what the wind gods make from my illusions:
an insistence I can scour memory
to change what I know can’t be changed.

Small-town Lear muttering back.
The grand thing about storms is, they move along,
dissipate and leave a high-pressure high-note relief.
So, you blooming sky fields of primordial wreck,
boom and bang away, but as you haul the old year’s putrid carcass out to sea,
do this for us: wash the past with your healing grace. Blast us all
out of this dark time’s lambent failures, into a fresh year
of whole and hopeful presence. Help us learn
to move through any weather
and not take it on as our own. ■


Calvin Ahlgren (“Old Year Psalm,” p. 19), Tennessee-born, migrated to Northern California in the mid-’60s. He is a former print journalist who gardens, cooks and teaches healing qigong and Yang-style tai chi. His work has been published in the West Marin Review, Blue Pen, the travel poem anthology Through a Distant Lens, the flash fiction magazine Cease, Cows, various Marin Poetry Center anthologies and elsewhere.

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