Word Cloud: PORTENTS

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The New Year. It has often seemed bright with the promise of better things to come.

New Year 2017 fills me with foreboding, which is reflected in this week’s poems. While some people are out celebrating, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking there’s an ominous zing of ozone in the air.

Weather forecasts are unclear, but our headlights have picked out rockslide warning signs in the murk ahead. Roll up your windows, and check your seatbelts.

December 31st

by Richard Hoffman

All my undone actions wander
naked across the calendar,

a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,
blown snow scattered here and there,

stumbling toward a futureSkull from flowers.
folded in the New Year I secure

with a pushpin: January’s picture
a painting from the 17th century,

a still life: Skull and mirror,
spilled coin purse and a flower.


Year’s End

by Richard Wilbur

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not risefern-fossil
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

January Drought

by Conor O’Callaghan

It needn’t be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.

The woods’ parchment is given
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First
and Hawthorne and is there yet.

The papers say it has to happen,
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.

A month’s supper things stacks in the sink.
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hiddenbadly-wrapped-xmas-present
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.

I have reservoirs of want enough
to freeze many nights over.


on new year’s eve

by Evie Shockley

we make midnight a maquette of the year:
frostlight glinting off snow to solemnize
the vows we offer to ourselves in near
silence: the competition shimmerwise

of champagne and chandeliers to attract
laughter and cheers: the glow from the fireplace
reflecting the burning intra-red pact
between beloveds: we cosset the space

of a fey hour, anxious gods molding our
hoped-for adams with this temporal clay:
each of us edacious for shining or
rash enough to think sacrifice will stay

this fugacious time: while stillness suspends
vitality in balance, as passions
struggle with passions for sway, the mind wends
towards what’s to come: a callithump of fashions,


ersatz smiles, crowded days: a bloodless cut
that severs soul from bone: a long aching
quiet in which we will hear nothing but
the clean crack of our promises breaking.


A Third Act at New Years

by Nona Blyth Cloud

I arrived late in a desert downpour,
Birthcord snugged to my neck –
The story of my life, a minor drama
Wintry but earnest with expectation
And far too difficult to stage

For audiences in the dark
Noise-distracted, hyper-eyed,
Expecting crashes and explosions
Interleaved with tumid sex andL A riot 1992
Random angry cloudbursts

Last act curtain rises as,
Exiled in my native land
My Cassandra tongue unheeded,
Shouters flee past an empty horse
Toward the glitter-light engulfing Troy.


I’m handing the map to Emily Dickinson, in the hope she can re-route us.

This World is Not Conclusion

by Emily Dickinson

This world is not conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond,
Invisible, as music,
But positive, as sound.star_art_sky_night_people_silhouette
It beckons and it baffles;
Philosophies don’t know
And though a riddle, at the last,
Sagacity must go.
To guess it puzzles scholars;
To gain it, men have shown
Contempt of generations,
And crucifixion known.

– – –

At Last to be Indentified!

by Emily Dickinson

At last to be indentified!
At last, the lamps upon thy side,
The rest of life to see!
Past midnight, past the morning star!
Past sunrise! Ah! What leagues there are
Between our feet and day!


I have a reminder on my bulletin board that I will be looking at often in the coming days:

Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles,
It empties today of its strength.

 – Corrie ten Boom





  • Richard Hoffman (1949 – ) writer-in residence at Emerson College, Boston MA. Poetry collections: Without Paradise: Poems (2002), Gold Star Road (2007) – Short Fiction:  Interference & Other Stories (2009) – Memoir: Half the House (2005)
  • Richard Wilbur (1921 – ) U.S. Poet Laureate (1987-88), Pulitzer Prize (1957 and 1989), National Book Award (1957) for Things of This World: Poems, and the Frost Medal, as well as innumerable other awards and honors. Most recent poetry collections are Mayflies: New Poems and Translations, Harcourt (2000) and Collected Poems: 1943-2004, Harcourt (2004)
  • Conor O’Callaghan (1968 – ) Irish author of: Seatown and Earlier Poems (2000);  Fiction (2005),  The Sun King (2013) – Teaches poetry and Anglo-Irish literature at Sheffield Hallam University in England
  • Evie Shockley (1965 – ) teaches African American Literature ansd Creative Writing at Rutgers University NJ. Her collections: The Gorgon Goddess (2001), a half-red sea (2006), 31 words * prose poems (2007), and the new black (2011), which won Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry (2012)
  • Nona Blyth Cloud (1949 – ) since retiring from managing non-profits, is making up for lost writing time by posting daily, weekly and monthly blogs, ranging in subject from poetry to the state of the world, and whatever else comes to mind. Many of these musings show up here at Flowers for Socrates.
  • Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) American’s best-known woman poet and one of the nation’s greatest and most original authors, lived the life of a recluse in Amherst MA


  • Skull from flowers vector by lapesnape
  • Fern fossil
  • Badly wrapped present
  • Champagne aftermath
  • Riot fire
  • Night Sky Silhouette – Star Art
  • Night tress and stars

Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to Word Cloud: PORTENTS

  1. pete says:

    I’ve never really understood why they have New Years when they do. It always seemed to me the day after winter solstice would make more sense. Not to mention a 12 month year when 13 months work out better.
    I think a celebration is pretty much out of the question. That foreboding seems to be going around.

    • wordcloud9 says:

      None of the calendars seem completely sensible to me. I always wondered why the first day of the new year wasn’t the vernal equinox, the beginning of the growing season, although there wouldn’t be much food left to celebrate with for people who live in harsh winter climates – so maybe that’s why – but then, why is February so short, while other months have 31 days instead of 30?

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