A New Year Greeting

On this day tradition allots
       to taking stock of our lives,
   my greetings to all of you, Yeasts,
       Bacteria, Viruses,
   Aerobics and Anaerobics:
       A Very Happy New Year
   to all for whom my ectoderm
       is as Middle-Earth to me.
   For creatures your size I offer
       a free choice of habitat,
   so settle yourselves in the zone
       that suits you best, in the pools
   of my pores or the tropical
       forests of arm-pit and crotch,
   in the deserts of my fore-arms,
       or the cool woods of my scalp.
   Build colonies: I will supply
       adequate warmth and moisture,
   the sebum and lipids you need,
       on condition you never
   do me annoy with your presence,
       but behave as good guests should,
   not rioting into acne
       or athlete’s-foot or a boil.
   Does my inner weather affect
       the surfaces where you live?
   Do unpredictable changes
       record my rocketing plunge
   from fairs when the mind is in tift
       and relevant thoughts occur
   to fouls when nothing will happen
       and no one calls and it rains.
   I should like to think that I make
       a not impossible world,
   but an Eden it cannot be:
       my games, my purposive acts,
   may turn to catastrophes there.
       If you were religious folk,
   how would your dramas justify
       unmerited suffering?
   By what myths would your priests account
       for the hurricanes that come
   twice every twenty-four hours,
       each time I dress or undress,
   when, clinging to keratin rafts,
       whole cities are swept away
   to perish in space, or the Flood
       that scalds to death when I bathe?
   Then, sooner or later, will dawn
       a Day of Apocalypse,
   when my mantle suddenly turns
       too cold, too rancid, for you,
   appetising to predators
       of a fiercer sort, and I
   am stripped of excuse and nimbus,
       a Past, subject to Judgement.
Other works by W. H. Auden...