Lisa Richter Literature Poetry

New Year’s Lament

I am writing you this letter from the bottom of the ocean
where my eyelids are bottle caps and my stomach turns
burnished copper. Maybe it is time for a new oral tradition.
All day I flicker and sometimes I go out and leave
in my wake the faintest trace of sweat and hibiscus.
Maybe I am an embryo. By which I mean the procedure
of un-making a forest, a sidewalk moving of its own accord.
Who am I, though, to speak of what space confers
by way of singing? Maybe salutations are in order.
Once, we made hats of our secret inadequacies
and laughed as we tossed them into starlit reservoirs.
We are all on this planet reinventing-ourselves-years-old
and today it is all of our birthdays. Some mornings
I am a winter tangerine, others a sewing machine
from the turn of the last century, the kind your mother
used to make your clothes with. The supermarkets
are all closed today, as are the mosques and synagogues.
Cemeteries are open but the ghosts are all hungover
in their graves. Deep in my body an insidious god
has stashed a ransom note. I’ve swallowed so many stars
a black hole gapes in my chest. I drape my arms
in canary velvet, avail myself of plant life. I subpoena
my memories of the past year, but now it’s too late.
They’ve decamped for a home that is shaped like a teardrop.


Lisa Richter is the author of the poetry collections Closer to Where We Began and Nautilus and Bone, winner of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence, CAROUSEL, and Best Canadian Poetry 2024. She lives in Toronto.