Tuesday Poem: The Year Zero

The Year Zero

It was the year there was no summer
when winter drizzled and froze
through a reluctant spring
into a cloud-shrouded August
snowdrops in April and
February Fill-dyke in July.
We had no name for these new seasons
or the year that refused to turn
in its old rhythms.

It was the year that our mythologies lost
meaning and the oracles were dumb.
Hawberries glutted the warm winter
red skies at night brought only storm.
We had no signs to warn us of the plague
beetle in the bark, no animal or bird
to augur the weirding weather - 
geese stopped migrating and
the swallows stayed.

It was the year we found that we no longer
spoke the language of the land.  The year
science had no answer to the big question.
The year we knew we needed a new story
to tell us how to live.

© Kathleen Jones

We're having some very extreme weather in Europe at the moment - whole areas of Austria, Czech republic, Germany and Switzerland under water and it's been the coldest spring in living memory, which in this village is more than 90 years.  On the 3rd of June in Italy, we shouldn't have the central heating on and be wearing sweaters! The poem was an attempt to put into words the bewilderment everyone is feeling when the solid ground of seasonal patterns becomes unpredictable.  I'm also interested in how we frame our lives through myths and stories.  The traditional one is Demeter and Persephone - but that won't do at the moment.
  What stories can we tell to make sense of what's happening right now?

For more Tuesday poems please go over to the Tuesday poem hub and check out the side bar for lots of interesting contributions from all over the world.   Today's hub poem is Untitled (If you have linen women) by a New Zealand poet called Robin Hyde who died in 1939 at the age of 33.


  1. Love this poem. I respond to it immediately. I'm a little tired of so many poems tiptoeing around the big issues staring us in the face. Good one!

    1. Thanks Harvey - I always struggle a bit with the issue that polemic rarely makes good poetry. So I just went for the polemic!!

  2. Nice, I particularly like the way the poem builds around traditional elements and turns them -- finally demanding a new story...

    1. Thanks - I'm glad you liked the structure!

  3. a beautiful haunting poem about a frightening subject.
    I enjoyed it immensely.

  4. Ditto to what Harvey said about tiptoeing around big issues. No answers from science, and the need for a new story. Or maybe even an old one we've forgotten or have shoved aside. I love this poem, Kathy. Knockout.

  5. Thank you both - it's always a scary moment when you write something a bit different.

  6. Love this Kathy, beautifully said, with a rhythm that is itself like the flow of nature - even when it seems out of synch. Thanks for sharing it :)


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