Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor

Poem Of The Week: Promise By Jackie Kay


Remember, the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
a clean calendar, a new chance.
On thick white snow
You vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.

Image by Jaesung An from Pixabay
Image by Jaesung An from Pixabay
Measured by any metric, 2022 has been a pretty dreadful year. And if the sheet of ‘thick white snow’ in Jackie Kay’s hopeful poem is a serviceable metaphor for a fresh start, or annual resetting of approach, I doubt the sentiment would be shared by the good citizens of Buffalo, currently buried under several feet of an all too literal deluge.

Pristine snow is a comfort blanket for poets and metaphysicians; less so for farmers, and stranded motorists whose hazards illuminate the gauze covering from beneath, intermittently, like muffled Christmas tree lights. That the received effect is aesthetically pleasing will be of little immediate relevance, or solace, to the shivering occupants.

Yet as a figure for a ‘clean calendar’, a turning over of a new page, Kay’s image sustains in this poem of few words and endless possibility. The blank sheet of paper is waiting to be written as the new year buds, and it is well that the rhymes and tentative half-rhymes should lead to an ambiguity of promises broken and lasting, because both will obtain in an uncertain world. Promise is a toast to what it means to be human, for a’ that.