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Birthdays

The one-year-old doubled his years
with shrieks and giggles,
then flopped finally down
in a dazed, exhausted coil.

Now the voices rise
and scrape cacophonous.
Sickly sherry rivulets wend
beaded from shard to shard.
A lone balloon survivor dangles
riskily over the candles, swaying.
Beyond the table, the window yaws,
heat twisting the roaring reflection.

A young mother's careful hands
curl and tape the cut and folded paper
into a mockery of a crown, balance it gently
on the almost six-year-old's worried head;
he paces from the drying cake to the window
where the driveway smirks emptily;

the curse of expectations.
Such a fine connect-the-dotter–
let the precocious child
form his own invitations, so original.

Did anyone discover
the aborted construction paper heap
by the Tonkas and the Tinkertoys?
The pen hung raised and still after "you are"–
how is "invited" spelled?
Then the new dandelions'
compelling call,
the sea of golden heads
begging to be popped,
the whirling day washed away
in a splash of sunlight.

A stray breath wafts the balloon
into critical proximity,
and the sudden clap of air
kills the sound and the light
as fast as any five-year-old
can forget.


Oct. '99