Birthday in Hospital
Birthday in Hospital.
Only a few cards came, mostly from relatives
too far away to visit. Maybe later on
some kind of celebration has been planned;
there'll be no band nor drop of anything
to warm our spirits since the last attendant
caught sly-grogging for the patients got dismissed.
This day I'm twenty-nine and have no worries
of wife or work or child to think about.
And still, at twenty-nine, I'm not beyond
the thought of cake with candles counting out the years:
it makes me wonder if the breath which mingled once
with mine would still untimely help me chase
the flames away to nowhere, to that place
where all the edgy dead wait hopefully
to see how many lights are set to keep them warm.
But they are adamant and will not rest content
with kisses blown of fire. Nor will the burns
of all my years be salvéd at one breath.
And so this year I'd leave all candles burning,
even I'd light some more to give the sun a hint
and tip the solstice toward summer for a change:
although the days pass slowly, let them last.
There's always things to do - like basketwork or rugs:
once I made an artificial nest of wool and straw
and left it in a tree for birds to find.
They plucked away the strands and built elsewhere.
Each day I feed the birds black corn and watch them fly
the grains toward the sun's horizon-grinding mill
to make the mealy flour of night and bake
its bitter sweated bread that bears our salt.
Each night I find our lights-out time the hardest
time to pass, to lie awake and watch the dark
or hear, part-dozing, drowned half-human moans
which sink beneath the weight of dull sedation's
deep mercuric seas until I wake and recognise
that voice, that depth-trapped animal is mine.
And lying there tonight I'll try hard not to tell
myself too often that I'm twenty-nine years old,
no wife nor work nor child to think about,
that now I'm twenty-nine and, as the doctor says,
with all my life ahead of me, with all my life ahead.