Welcoming the new year 2021
It is a New Zealand-Jamaica Christmas 2020 and new year 2021 at Meeting Ground.
Welcome (or Kia Ora as we say in New Zealand) to Christmas and the New Year. I always think of this period as a baptism or cleansing time before we face the coming year, Some people take stock of their previous life and some make resolutions.
Maybe we poets discover new words and expressions to embrace. David Eggleton’s New Year’s Day at Byron Bay is reminiscent of a lone Kiwi (New Zealander) lost among the summer rush and throng of Byron Bay, Australia.
Opal Palmer Adisa’s Kwanzaa, more than a holiday speaks of family and strong traditions, the faith that holds us all together. Anita Arlov’s New Year dance personifies the New Year as a friend or possibly a lover consoling the reader into delight, and Kwame Dawes’ New Year’s eve in Addis speaks of reverence and the deep spirituality of the season, and of forgiveness and the putting aside of old sins.
I think it is a wonderful blend of the Jamaican and New Zealand poetic approach to this time when we look back and forward to the new year. Blessings to you all. – Shane Hollands, president, New Zealand Poetry Society
NEW YEAR’S DAY AT BYRON BAY
I’m older now at Byron Bay,
rediscovering its tourist schemes,
while clarity pours from crest to crest,
serenely leading the chasing wash.
The summer crowd loves the woosh.
It bobbles wet-backed till it gleams,
sunk thigh-deep in the seethe of New Year’s Day,
holy for Australians and the Kiwi,
rising drenched from crystal glow,
a roll-on spiced,
as the brushed silk shimmers away to a haze of sea-meadow,
where sharks cruise like midget submarines.
In starry Jesus hair streams,
a goofy-foot walks a water-quake.
A foaming breaker drapes his shoulder.
He flips upside-down through a mirror,
then kicks for the blue light,
kicks to where the rip curl lifts over his ears its redeemer’s shower.
The ocean glitter’s a soft icing his board planes,
and blue his cloud-swallowing dreams,
bound in foamy loops,
whisked to gold’s height for a sponge cake the sun might bake,
He’s the jackpot casino winner who preens.
Kids pound the waves with their fists.
In Byron, the anointed test the sunbeams.
Above swamps where crocodiles lurk,
car engines idle,
waiting for fossil fuel.
Heat sneaks in and fingers everything,
making greasy marks,
while I watch from a pricey beer balcony the hippy bus going to Nimbin,
and pool-side aquacade teams,
and shoppers whose branded backpacks hold the globe.
Motorists fume in traffic serpents at the roundabouts.
Their cars growl,
having drunk truth serum.
Tourists raise their melting ice-creams.
– David Eggleton (New Zealand Poet Laureate)
KWANZAA, MORE THAN A HOLIDAY
I want to swim in the sea
drink sorrel and eat fruit cake
light a candle for each day of the week
and give thanks for the food we grow and eat.
I want a holiday that speaks of values
I can work on and celebrate throughout the year.
I want reggae songs and stories that affirm my world.
I want to be surrounded by family and friends.
Teach me about umoja so we can spread unity.
Help me to understand kujichagulia and be self-determined.
Foster in me ujima so I live and practice working with others.
Help me to build ujamaa so we have a solid economic base.
Show me how to live a life of purpose, nia as guide.
Let my creativity tumble out as kuumba.
Harness my faith and chant imani.
Allow our collective voice to resound.
Kwanzaa fortifies and
grounds me in my culture
Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa
is the time for the entire family
– Opal Palmer Adisa (Jamaica)
NEW YEAR DANCE
new year’s approaching
asking for a dance
catching me out
“listen, new year”
i say to her,
“nothing personal, but
can you come back later?
I’m not up to it
i’m still finding my feet
and if you must know I’m sore
you didn’t give me a heads up
about last year
those killer moves
that nightmarish soundtrack
swallowed me whole”
but new year smiles sympathetically
she cups my elbow
and together we rise to the light
– Anita Arlov (New Zealand)
NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ADDIS
Addis is dark at night, as if the low grade
electricity cannot burn through the heavy gloom.
On New Year’s Eve the shops are emptying,
the pavements are covered with aromatic
green of cut grass, and women sell bundles
of the welcome carpets and dry firewood.
The smoke begins to thicken the air –
from bonfires with a red glow at each house
and small dwelling. It is hard to breathe
so far up in the highlands; the air is being
purified – all sins, all errors, all wayward acts
burnt away by flame; the smoke clogs the nostrils
with acrid reminder of failure. The penitents
will bathe in soft rain water, cover their skin
with palms full of medicated powder, and the bodies
will be robed in gleaming white -cloth of hope.
In the dim light of pre-dawn, the women follow
the antiphonal groans of the priests at St. Stephens –
the scents of incense can carry for miles in the cool
morning air. They arrive at the courtyard and begin
to press clean lips to the floor of the sanctuary,
to open clean palms and cup the blessings falling
from the crosses’ maze of lines. Like women
bathing in a river, they scoop the healing on their
heads, their voices muttering the Ge-ez of penitence
until they too can enter the holy place and bow.
The past must enter the blood as ritual – that which
remains is the gold and the precious silver of tradition –
and in this season we learn the theology of forgiveness,
the promise of forgetting all things – the amnesia
of the gospel. It is how a people could forget
the monument of the emperor; how, come Maskal,
the sins of a brutish summer can turn into smoke –
a burning in the eyes, some tears for a while
before the balm of weeping, the cleansing of prayer
and the ordinary rituals of facing new days.
The penitent does not make God; it is God who made
the penitent; it is not for us to know the answers;
questions are for those who have not yet learnt
the insignificance of the short time we’re given here.
– Kwame Dawes (Jamaican living in the United States)