The Birthday Poem

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I. (The Happy Family and Me)
I spit on the happy family
‘s car with death-
black spit after smoking my first cigar.

The days get shorter each winter
you hear everyone talking about it
but whoever talks about the dark
ness that consumes us?

I look for that buzz behind two bottles
of Bud and a Swisher Sweet, but
if ever I lick my lips, I taste the poetry

of a bad day, the search for Jesus, the intimacy
of a good cry, the milkshake
I had last week (which has curdled
and gone bad, along with The Happiness).
That’s why I spit
on the happy family’s car—because they’ve spit first.

I look for the buzz behind two bottles of Bud
and a Swisher Sweet, but all I ever find is
a dead friend
and a mocking note:
Happy 18th!




II. (I’d Like to Rotate My Crops)
I’d like to rotate my crops
in an empty parking lot—somewhere
near the back, by a streetlight, with a new book
of poetry and my first cigar
as an adult—but naught is my luck.
I open mouth
to introductory smokettes
which run over my upper lip
and back into my nose
where the scent is recycled
like everything and everyone else:
reused.

Every three years
a farmer rotates his crops
so that the soul of the soil
will retain its vitality—



III. (Fittingly and Sorrowfully—Lost)
Picture a cake
with this candle
and that
and something burning
for everyone.

If each is blown out
one at a time
as, perhaps, cats lose lives,
will so go mine?

There’s something in a package
on the doorstep
with a ribbon and a bow and
a kiss, and it’s from Love
gone past
and
a person whose lips lasted as long as
this candle
and that.

There’s a letter in the mailbox
from that long lost friend
who is now—
fittingly
and
sorrowfully—
Lost.
One in which he says goodbye
before hello
and goodbye again to end.
A life which lasted as long as
that candle, and those.

There’s a light out
on the ceiling; a bulb gone dimmer
dimmer
done.

A flag with tattered edges.
A door with squeaky hinge.
A flower lost its rooting.
A bird with weakened wings.

But picture for me a birthday cake
with your name on it. This cake
is yours to celebrate, and it’s here
for you
and you can keep it

as long as the candles burn.



IV. (Forgetting The Whole World)
On the day I turned 18
you killed yourself.
And as simply stated as it is
it’s been so hard to understand.

Thank you for welcoming me
to adulthood
in a fiery, baptismal way, John.
Thank you for welcoming me to adulthood.

But today
I said I love you
and for the first time
knew what it meant.

I guess it took forgetting
what the whole world was about
to make enough room
for something as big as Love.



V. (I Wish This Day Could Last Forever)
Kids with glass eyes reflect birthday wishes
in friendly mirror hearts.
‘I wish this day could last forever’
And the candles are blown
out—

If this day could be endless
I would not be. If this day would never stop
I would stop. If this day had its own heart-
beat, I would beat my heart out of my chest.
If this day were endless
I would kill myself too.

Losing a friend is never easy
and kids with glass eyes shed tear-shards that cut cheeks
and bleeding hearts are reflected unto themselves.
‘I wish this day could last forever’

and I’m telling you this wish
so it won’t come true.



VI. (IF…OR, WHY?)

IF… a roller coaster flew off the track
or IF… a merry-go-round spun too fast

I think a lot about IF…
and OR,
because they make it easier
to answer WHY?
without saying your name
or coming across a great big YOU

YOU is what I avoid in these thoughts
but submit that YOU are IF… and OR, and WHY?
and WHY? I don’t know;
IF… I could go back I’d ask you WHY?
OR,

at the very least
try and keep YOU
(alive)



VII. (The Five Stages of Grief)
Who would I be if I let this eat me alive
someone who says “no… no… no…”
and Bob says I need to move on from grief
from disbelief, denial
he’s my therapist
but

don’t ever let a Bob tell you what it’s like
when he doesn’t know what it means
to say F*** YOU M***********
and look at the sky
and for once
feel f***ing glad to hear nothing in return
but

I’d take ten years with Bob
for another minute with John
I’d give away my words
no more writing
I’d give up food
or water
or sex…
but

nothing matters anyway
no one wants my words
no one wants the food, the water, the sex
all they’ll take is John
and

that’s just the way it is.





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