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“Anniversaries” by Donald Justice

Great Leo roared at my birth,
The windowpanes were lit
With stars’ applausive light,
And I have heard that the earth
As far away as Japan
Was shaken again and again
The morning I came forth.
Many drew round me then,
Admiring. Beside my bed
The tall aunts prophesied,
And cousins from afar,
Predicting a great career.

At ten there came an hour
When, waking out of ether
Into an autumn weather
Inexpressibly dear,
I was wheeled superb in a chair
Past vacant lots in bloom
With goldenrod and with broom,
In secret proud of the scar
Dividing me from life,
Which I could admire like one
Come down from Mars or the moon,
Standing a little off.

By seventeen I had guessed
That the “really great loneliness”
of James’s governess
Might account for the ghost
On the other side of the lake.
Oh, all that year was lost
Somewhere among the black
Keys of Chopin! I sat
All afternoon after school,
Fingering his ripe heart,
While boys outside in the dirt
Kicked, up and down, their ball.

Thirty today, I saw
The trees flare briefly like
The candles upon a cake
As the sun went down the sky,
A momentary flash,
Yet there was time to wish
Before the light could die,
If I had known what to wish,
As once I must have known,
Bending above the clean,
Candlelit tablecloth
To blow them out with a breath.

Donald Justice, “Anniversaries.” (Collected Poems, 2004)

 

Comments

Happy Birthday! We are thinking of you today!

Thanks! K gave me Severance, which is gonna be difficult not to start today even though I really should try to finish the five other books i’m in the midst of reading…

Speaking of gifts, we are embarking on a quest to make our friends’ children sympathetic to interspecies love, and to that end we need to know 1) whether the children of hermits already own this book, and 2) if there are any reasons why said children should not own it (say, by receiving it, mysteriously prewrapped, in the mail sometime around christmas) since it’s the cutest book printed in like forever.

Is it really so different now that you’re on the other side?

JH, I truly had no idea what it would be like. Just yesterday I thought it would be no big deal, just another day as similar as Friday is to Saturday—except that, since Armistice Day is a national holiday, the mail wouldn’t come. Was I ever wrong.

How can I describe it? This morning, I woke to what I can only describe is the song of the heavens. I could hear the stars singing! My senses had been enhanced, and I could hear depths of tone I had never thought possible before, see colors and forms more distinctly, smell roses more honestly, taste exquisite meals more truly than ever before. I was astonished, and I wandered about this morning looking at the world as if it were new. I only wish it were spring so I could hear the songbirds’ tunes for what they are. Alas! That will have to wait.

Meanwhile, I realized that topics I only yesterday believed to be murkily troublesome I now see with moral clarity. I have also become more emotionally open, which makes me a better partner to K and more loving person all around. Already I can feel generosity swelling in my breast, urging me to go out and give more to the world.

There’s more besides, but I’ll spare all the exclamations since I’m certain I haven’t yet learned all there is to know about thirtyness. So far, though, what I have learned has been astonishingly great, and the only downside was the sinking feeling I got when I realized that the government now believes I’m beyond the benefits of abstinence education. Knowing the government has given up trying to preach to me about my sex life, however, made the birthday sex that much better.

In that case, I can’t wait! Only four years and 27 days to go!

we are all about inter-species love! it is, after all, part of the liberal agenda.

You freedom-haters, you.

Someday (preferably when we are both blind and drunk, as JD Salinger once wrote), I shall tell you all about the wonderful insights I gained after turning 30 myself last year, if only I can remember any of them. But it sounds like you’re well along.

In any case, a very happy birthday from your terminally behind the times friend.