Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from the boys!

By overwhelming popular demand we again present this masterful sonnet from "the people's poet", Arnold Schnabel, originally published in the Olney Times for January 4, 1963; two weeks later Arnold would be languishing in a padded cell at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

If the present poem appears particularly gloomy even for this time of the year, please remember that this particular new year's eve was a mere two months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the destruction of mankind suddenly loomed as a very actual possibility, and concerning the horror of which Arnold Schnabel had already versified so beautifully.

(The “Chew Avenue” of the title refers to the location -- on the corner of Chew and Lawrence, in the Olney section of Philadelphia -- of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, now sadly defunct.)

New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue

It’s New Year’s Eve, it seems we’ve made it,
If only barely, through another year;
The terror, if not gone, has abated
Into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
So I go to the VFW,
Shove to the bar of this drunkard’s heaven,
And say, “Pat, if you please, I’ll trouble you
For a Schmidt’s, backed with an Old Forester,
And keep them coming till I say not to,
Or until you throw me out; whatever;
Do what your conscience says that you’ve got to.”
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
“Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year.”

(Republished with the kind permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society of Philadelphia, PA. Kindly look to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to many other fine poems by Arnold Schnabel, many of them suitable for recitations and toasts at family, business or social gatherings, weddings, and funerals during this holiday season. Be sure also to visit our ongoing serialization of Arnold's classic memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.*)

*"I read a page or two every night before retiring." -- Bertrand Russell


Unknown said...

Sometimes the best art is born out of despair...a lovely poem.
Happy New Year, Arnold and Dan!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Dan, hope you're not working on amateur's night.


zingtrial said...

“New day, new blessings. Don’t let yesterday’s failures ruin the beauty of today. Blessings of God are new every morning. Today has its own promise of love, forgiveness, joy and success.Happy New Year!”

Dan Leo said...

Happy Gnu Year back atchya, guys, and, Dave, I will be merrily celebrating at home with our new brand-new girl cat Miou-Miou!

Unknown said...

And only a week ago I was envying Arnold's joie de vivre! His Christmas sonnet was so "hail fellow well met."
But this one is sad.
Dan, here's hoping your New Year is filled with women and Jesus.

Dan Leo said...

Well, Kathleen, as we now know, Arnold bounced back from his dark night of the soul in a big way, and 1963, in the words of his friend Frank, "was a very good year".

Happy New Year, girlfriend!