The new year is often pitched as a time of hope, but the reality is that, for some, the new year might be a time of dislocation, confusion and loneliness, particularly during these challenging times. In this poem by Natasha Rao, the speaker’s face is always lit up by the sun, by the light in a bathroom or by her friends. But she doesn’t feel connected to this artificial happiness. Instead, she is a “stranger to my own life.” The last line plays on the phrase “New Year’s resolution” and asserts that maybe not striving for anything during the new year is more than enough. Selected by Victoria Chang
In the New Year
By Natasha Rao
Sun on my face and the train slips
into the tunnel. Dim reflection confronts.
Perhaps I am lacking in something substantial
like iron, or virtue. How easy it is to hurt
someone, how hard to face what comes after.
My face, strangely lit, in the bathroom
mirror. Surrounded by friends, I felt a queasy
aloneness, didn’t know whose lap to cry into.
Someone spat out an olive pit. Someone tore
streamers off the wall. I distorted
through the stemmed glass. Already exhausted
in this angular year, where I hover
like a stranger to my own life.
No resolution in any of it.
Victoria Chang is a former Guggenheim fellow whose fifth book of poems, “OBIT” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read. It received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry. Her book of nonfiction, “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief,” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in Antioch University’s M.F.A. program. Natasha Rao is a poet and educator from New Jersey. Her debut collection, “Latitude,” was the winner of the 2021 APR/Honickman First Book Prize.