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northern lights

Last year on this day, December 31, I danced a glosa, “there are no lost amigos”, with Jack Kerouac from his Book of Sketches. The poem still reads well, and much of it came true—as poems ought to, on this most prophetic occasion. This year, two female poets blend their say with mine. The first is Silvina Ocampo, an Argentine contemporary of Jorge Luis Borges. “The range of her spirit is much greater than my own,” says Borges generously of his friend in a preface to her short story collection, Thus Were Their Faces. Ocampo was also a clairvoyant, which makes the writing of this New Year’s Eve glosa all the more enchanting.


I have received it all. Oh, nothing, nothing is mine.
I am like the reflections of a gloomy lake
or the echo of voices at the bottom of a blue
well when it has rained.

—from “Song” by Silvina Ocampo, translated by Jason Weiss

I wonder if you’ve noticed, says the tall
thin man to me at the bar, that far less
oxygen is breathed globally on New Year’s
Eve than any other night—until the sex,
of course. They’ve measured it. We
suspend respiration from a fear of time
passing. Brain cells die from forced inebriation.
We greet the new year stupider. That’s why
I only drink soda and thousand dollar red wine.
I have received it all. Oh, nothing, nothing is mine.

He doesn’t know I came with you. You’re mingling
somewhere so I listen to his hypotheses.
They ramble from a scorched dead Earth
to why his mother shelled her peas
to Patsy Cline and BBC, no other.
He grabs my arm. Oh, look, the flake
is here! Comes every year, tells fortunes
by your posture. Snap! I straighten,
nearly wrench a shoulder. Great.
I am like the reflections of a gloomy lake,

deep, and only vaguely fascinating. I sidle
over, do not catch her name. She’s Kola Sami,
Lapp, born on some Arctic fjord. You’re bored
too easily, she says. All that you once could see,
that saw you back, you’ve stopped believing.
Wait around for others to establish what is true,
and then you preach it, divide yourselves
between the ones who drink and screw and those
who wish they could. If you don’t dissolve the glue
or the echo of voices at the bottom of a blue

mood, nothing will ever arrive to improve.
She vanishes into the crowd with a whiff
of salt spray and spruce. A Canada goose
calls to her mate from the head of a V
in the moment you appear. Let’s get out of here!
We drive through empty streets until nothing remains
of old anxieties. Above the lake stir Northern Lights,
phosphorescent green. You are lovers, I hear the Sami
say. Be that, no other, as an overflowing, unrestrained
well, when it has rained.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015