At the Turning of the Year

At this turning of the year, I find myself thinking about life changes. What does this have to do with poetry? I find that when my life halts, does an about face and stutters off again I tend to write more. These are difficult poems to make public as far as I’m concerned.  I really dislike the poor me, the intense preoccupation with the inner self that afflicts some writers.  For me poetry is about creating pictures with words and more importantly about instigating a felt change in the reader.  A poem hopefully makes the reader see the world in a new way.  I’m sure my students got tired of hearing this. 

Think about it though in the context of opportunity. It’s a new year. Writers have this built in excuse of looking at life in unique, crazy, odd, funny ways.  It’s part of our craft.  If we didn’t see differently I have a hunch there wouldn’t be this compulsion to write.  Get it down.  OMG, I might loose it.  I keep paper and pencil beside my bed.  Still between the bathroom washing the face meditation and the pen and paper I can lose a thought that seemed earth shaking at the time.  These notes, some written in the dark, resemble more hieroglyphics than English.  Fortunately I am well versed in translating myself.  Walking meditation, OK so I walk the dog, leads to startling insights.  “Look they pulled out the dead juniper and now a sunflower has sprung up to replace them.”  At the time I meant to Twitter this.  I even took a photo to attach.  Surely there is some deep meaning in the fact of the sunflower rising in the face of death and in the winter.  Just yesterday we passed it again.  My big black lab mix, a known chicken, stared and stared at it when we passed that sunflower from the other side of the street.  Kept staring, kept staring. I didn’t get that at first. I really tried to see some critter that must be there to command all this attention. No critter lurked only the flower. I’m quite certain this type of sudden flowering is known to be dangerous to suburban dogs.  Plants are supposed to be in patterns, planted from plastic things not given to sudden springing out of nowhere. He’s seen us adding plants to the back yard. First the plant comes in the gate. Then it’s placed, sometimes for months, in the hoped for spot.  Planting mix appears. A shovel arrives. Out of the green plastic comes the plant. The plastic planter is flung off the dirt.  (They do attack dogs.  Perhaps, it just occurred to me, those events occasioned the fear of new plants I now see.  If the pots attack, why couldn’t the plants themselves?

So at this turning of the year, become a cat and be content with your spot in the sun. Take a dog walk and breathe deep taking in stories the air tells. See the small details that used to blur and blend away. In quietness listen to the sounds we chatter through. Why not move in horse world for the sheer joy of moving?  Who cares about direction?  Just move wherever, however you want because you can. Lizard like rest on a rock in the warming sun. Just think so many ways to be and all these new worlds to explore.  At the turning of the year, resolve to pay attention. 

At the Turning of the Year

the donkey song swirls about my suburban

neighborhood calling listeners to attention.

I can’t grasp the lyrics but I’m forced to look

to the donkey’s hill.  The grass comes green now

with only a few wisps of tall brown waving

in stubborn steadfastness of place. 


At the turning of the year

the misplaced zebra settles for burro

companions.  Given no choice he was sold

and came to live on this lonely hill.  He’s

nowhere he’s ever known or could have known.

A herd animal with no herd he tries grazing

by the road.  Cars move past most slowing to look

at this new resident.  But not one shakes its head

in greeting or looks with limpid eyes on the new addition.

Now I look for the zebra burro herd as they nibble

new grass in the low winter sun.


But at the turning of the year

it is the sunflower that speaks loudest.

One day the dead junipers by the sidewalk

disappeared.  To me it seemed but overnight

and there it was, the sunflower, bright

and yellow turning its face

with its intent brown eye to the sun.

 I want to do this now

that the year has turned.  Bloom where

I find myself; turn always to the sun,

and listen to raven, scrub jay, robin speak

as I imagine their important news. 


My dog explores the new year smells.

A neighboring cat stretches in the sun.

I find my own patch and

turn my face to the east.




About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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2 Responses to At the Turning of the Year

  1. My lab friend insists that sunflowers are indeed the most vicious of plants and are to be given a wide berth, growls and raised hackles, as are flagpoles…on the other hand cats are for cuddling, children for kissing and people in general for loving, so we excuse her eccentricities and cross the street whenever a sunflower or flagpole is spotted.

    Your writing is very easy on the ear and full of grace and insight. I look forward to finding your next post in my mailbox.



  2. I like the poem Jan. I especially like the part about listening to the bird-speak. I guess, of all animals, the birds really seem to have something to say.


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