News Poem: ‘New Year Letter 2015: You Are So Beautiful’


Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.06.15 AM


Yet once more, darkness my old friend, I come

To pluck the harsh bud of December midnight,

To contemplate the year that slips away.

Fine Scotch once again in hand, I wish

I could forget, ignore, deny, dismiss

Some of the truths I came to know this time:

Ukraine now sunk in civil war like Syria;

Israel and Hamas blind in Gaza;

Isis and Boko Haram pitching battles

Of all against all, brother against brother;

Ebola running like a fire of blood

Through the poorest cities of the poor,

While sad Malaysian planes fly into nothing.

And let’s remember here, so close to home,

Our sorrow, our confusion and our shame

In Ferguson and Staten Island, where

Something, somehow surely is not right,

As something surely is not right when torture

Is called “enhancement,” as if it could be

Raised in esteem if we just change the words.


Hard to find good great enough to meet

Such challenges. And yet I know it’s there,

Straight out my door, across deep wilderness,

25 miles southwest across the forest,

Across Mt. Axtell and the Anthracites,

Enormous mountains rippling in the dark,

To Crawford, where, in his adopted home,

The greatest blue-eyed soul shouter ever

Died last week: Joe Cocker, R&B king,

The man Ray Charles declared his one disciple,

Comparing him to Marvin and Aretha.


I think of that vast wilderness between

Our homes, not unlike the wilderness

That runs within us and can come roaring

Forth, and then imagine fifty years

Of soul, rising from whatever ashes

He made burning his days down. And now

Where is it? Where did it go? Where now

That voice of doubling octaves that could sound

Like a shovelful of gravel thrown

Against a concrete wall, the overtones

Bent so hard at the edges they ignite,

That English muscle mixed with US blues,

Passion, passion that had to come forth

So purely that it gave him crazy dancing,

arms akimbo, twisted hips, face wrinkling

With the red hot energy of soul

That didn’t seem to make sense, but it did,

Saying: Do you need anybody?

Well do you? Well, my friend, yes you do,

You need someone to love. Then you’ll get by,

You will because you have a little help.


So bring on the bad news. There will be more.

And yet, in light of that fat, endless drought

Can’t we turn to it and say, well, look,

We can do this too, make one of these:

A guiding light that shines in the night, music

That can unchain our hearts and lift us up.

Bring it on. Let December come.

We’ll get by. Just remember, friends,

That this is Colorado and you need

To wear more than a hat. Go in peace –

And listen, Joe, as you haunt those mountains:

Few hearts survive, but ours are beating on.

We have everything we really need

Right now, it’s true, true in that music floating

In fact and memory from Mad Dog Ranch.


Night, and morning. A new year has come

As I sang this elegiac song.

Now let us rise and wander in that flood

Of music and of love in Colorado,

The resting place of love songs such as Joe’s.



The Colorado Independent‘s News-Stained Poetry Project features poems that are about the news, products of the news, responses to the news. “News stained” is meant as a badge of honor, a reference to the long tradition of the poet as witness. As Carolyn Forché wrote, politics can sometimes be seen as a “contaminant to serious literary work,” something to be avoided. But that way of thinking, she said, “gives the political realm too much and too little scope… It renders the personal too important and not important enough.” News developments, whether or not they are reported, shape our personal lives every day. We don’t often think in the moment about how that is happening and what it means. We should think more about it. Poets think about it. And we want to help encourage them to write more about it.

Please send submissions to tips@www.coloradoindependent.comsubject line “poem,” with a short bio and some mention of where and when the poem was written.


[Image by Marc Soller