“Happy New Year,” a Poem by Lisa Olstein

From the Collection Dream Apartment

September 29, 2023  By Lisa Olstein

Is it selfish to wish for more than to survive?
I see you, bare arms gleaming in the sun-

struck snow, I see the browned roast
you brought to your wine-stained lips

the stack of books you read, and those boots
that last fall you loved yourself in.

I see you in them again on this roll call
morning stroll through what intimate data

strangers tell me about their lives.
Once upon a time I asked them to

or they asked me, who can recall,
I’m into it, I guess. I like to watch,

at least, I can’t seem to stop, but I can’t
bear to share, so I’ll tell you here:

the cat finally came home last night—
spooked by so many fireworks barking,

he hid somewhere unsearchable for a while
no matter how I called and called.

He chose me, I like to say since the day
I found him starving on the porch.

I know the night is full of unsteady boats
on cold seas and horrible cages

and people far more alone than me
I’m sorry for your loss, your cancer,

the accident you had no way to see coming
and the one you did have an inkling of

I’ve learned how important it is to say
because of how difficult it is to say

and how loudly loneliness fills the silence
although, like anything, it depends—

for instance, I still can’t unhitch my breath
from even the softest whisper of your name.


From Dream Apartment by Lisa Olstein. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Lisa Olstein
Lisa Olstein
Lisa Olstein is the author of five poetry collections—Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, Lost Alphabet, Little Stranger, Late Empire, and Dream Apartment. Her non-fiction works include Pain Studies, a book-length lyric essay, and Climate, an exchange of epistolary essays with the poet Julie Carr. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Lannan Residency Fellowship, Pushcart Prize, Hayden Carruth Award, Sustainable Arts Fellowship, and Writers League of Texas Book Award, Olstein teaches in the New Writers Project and Michener Center MFA programs at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also the lyricist for the rock band Cold Satellite and serves as an associate editor at Tupelo Quarterly.

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