Alan: Everyone gets to write one poem for their own birthday. Here’s mine.
Most awkward of numerals, these
their flat, displaced roofs
ripping loose in a gale.
The whole unsteady, no
foundation: the rounded base,
asymmetry threatening to tip
Fifty-five, still alive.
Clickety-clack, no turning back.
Today I will jog
I will drive
not to exceed the speed limit.
I will count out and eat
fifty-five grains of white rice,
parceling starvation's mite.
I will examine what I own:
the double handful of years
dextrous and sinister,
swollen, sore, denying,
affirming; those that accuse
and those that point the way.
I will consider my parents.
Once (for my sake?)
they set all questions aside,
curves and lines,
symbols of an infinite,
Om and Amen: God.
Once, for me –
or the presumption of me,
it hardy matters.
Eight-five and eight-six,
You have taught me all your tricks.
Today I will not
will refuse to gaze
I will bless my mother and father,
throwing wide arms around them
from such a distance,
will make my bed in their honor,
eat some sticky rice,
fix the sink,
play with the dogs.
Nancy: Genius, or simply human frailty?
If, as I read, El Greco’s saints are not
elongating in holy passionate flame, but are merely
the product of defective vision, is it possible
that my lines will slowly grow short of breath,
punctuated emphysemically? Will my reach shorten
and will the arthritic phrases venture less and less
far from the doorstep, and will I no longer write
of the bear licking its paws in the cedar swamp?
I wonder; it would be sad if the birds dropped
out of a deaf sky and anger went blunt as my
skin grew thick, and the cadence of poetry
took the creak creak of my chair into itself
until it was no more than a muted litany
of weakened failing flesh.
But wait: I like those landscapes
yearning toward the light, and I know now
how little will I have to write prosthetic poetry.
If memory cannot supply the shrill of the hawk
then let it fly silently, let it remain nameless, even,
let my infirmities speak for themselves
of what it is to be flawed.
Within these boundaries, there may be
burning saints and more strange beauties yet to see.