New Year with Nipperkin
And so the world begins again
In mild disarray
Where the best laid plans of mice and men,
It’s said, "gang aft agley."
"Gang aft agley"-- that sounds just right--
Where violence meets backwardness
So merrily and merrily
The Monday doth embark
Us on another work whose week
Will leave us in the dark,
A drink in hand and Parkinson's
Or worse, maybe, to stir
The ice into its carillon
Of Larkinsense and myrrh:
More light! More weight! More love! Less hate!
The Mass, the Seder, ah
The tools we use to disconfuse
And so, to bed. I draw the shade.
Should auld acquaintance croak
They’re none of mine, nor Auld Lang Syne,
Whoever he is.*
-- Richard Kenney
from The Antioch Review, Winter 2006, v. 64, no. 1
and The One-Strand River (Knopf, 2008)
Note by Judith Hall
Under the metrical sparkle and behind the man in his cups, or with his little cup for nips, his nipperkin – his kin as nip? – a reader senses, counter-intuitively, more light. For the darkness in Kenney’s poem is comparatively mild, made of lushly orchestrated cacophonies and allusions to Larkin’s “Aubade”, mit a bit o’ Goethe via Hecht. Burns is also toasted: “To a Mouse”, to “Auld Lang Syne”.
Surely after eight dark Bush years, we brutalized-and-izing Americans are warmed by a “joke” more readily than Burns’ “cup of kindness” “long ago”. For those in the mood to memorize now for New Year’s Eve “New Year, with Nipperkin”, remember to add to it “a little touch” of Scotch, as Studs Terkel used to say. No ice.