Poetry Friday: Burning the Old Year – Naomi Shihab Nye

Join us for Poetry Friday, hosted this Friday by Matt at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
I began the old year by clearing out (gone is the Christmas tree and all the greens which had bedecked our house), sprucing up (new reading chair and markers for my classroom  – answering Ruth Ayers’ call on Two Writing Teachers  for a fresh start), and launching a brand new unit for the new year in nonfiction reading and writing…so far so good.  I like the idea of letting go of one year, especially all of its disappointments and regrets, and feeling that wonderful “starting afresh” notion of a brand new year…which is, I think, the general feeling of this poem by the incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye:


Burning the Old Year

BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
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12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Burning the Old Year – Naomi Shihab Nye

  1. She is indeed incomparable, Tara. Don't you love that last part? And it's true, even at the end, one remembers what wasn't 'done', the "crackle". I love when poets show me how to describe a feeling. And the imagery of 'marry the air' is lovely. Thank you!

  2. And this poem has moved me yet again, like no other. Just like Linda said above, Naomi Shihab Nye is indeed beyond compare."Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves, only the things I didn’t do crackle after the blazing dies."I hope to do the things I didn't do in the coming year, less cracklings after the death of blazes and flames for 2014.

  3. Incomparable, indeed! I love so much of Naomi's work, and this is one of my favorites. Thank you so much for sharing, Tara, and you keep going with your letting go and starting new. xo

  4. One of the reasons I love being a teacher is that we get SO MANY new beginnings — every day, every Monday, after every break — especially every fall, every unit, every New Year.Looking forward to a clean page on Monday!

  5. Thanks for sharing! I love the line:"So much of any year is flammable,"Gone: "leaves a space" to "begin again with the smallest numbers."But, also, some heat and light, which on these cold, dark days, ain't nothin'!

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