Frances Richey

New Year’s Day Truce, 1999
January 23, 2017 Richey Frances

New Year’s Day Truce, 1999


He looked old and tired
and crunchy, the color of a tobacco leaf,
or a withered date.
He might have come from the garbage room
or the water closet, or the makeshift library
across the hall. Perhaps he’d been
munching on The Painted Bird,
or Destry Rides Again.
I hear they like paper and water
almost as much as trash.
He stood beside me
at the elevator, stone still, they way they do
when they think they’re hidden.
He had to know I was there.


How many times had I sprinkled boric acid
along my door frame? How many of his brethren
had I crushed under my boot?
Maybe he’d just had enough
of running, enough of dodging brooms
and books. What harm could it do, this once,
to let him go? The elevator
in the Times Square Hotel is painfully slow,
the occupants, mostly down-and-outers,
like us, waiting side by side,
natural enemies, ignoring each other.
When the doors opened, we crossed
the threshold together. I pressed Lobby, as he
disappeared through a crack in the tiles.

Frances Richey is the author of three poetry collections: The Warrior (Viking Penguin 2008), The Burning Point (White Pine Press 2004), and the chapbook, Voices of the Guard, a collaboration with the Oregon National Guard and Clackamas Community College, published by the college in 2010. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Gulf Coast, Salamander, Blackbird, and The Cortland Review, among others. She was a winner of Nicholas Kristof’s Iraq War Poetry Contest, and her poem appeared in his column, entitled “The Poets of War,” in June, 2007. She was the Barbara and Andrew Senchak Fellow at MacDowell for 2015-2016, a Finalist for the National Poetry Series in 2019, and a Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize. Her poems have been featured on NPR, PBS NewsHour and Verse Daily. She teaches an on-going poetry writing class at Himan Brown Senior Program at the 92NY in NYC where she is Poet-in-Residence.