Archive for the ‘“Approaching a Birthday”’ Category

Approaching a Birthday

By Barbara Sweeney

“I had expected to be more than this.  I had not expected to
be an ordinary woman.”
Lucille Clifton, 38th Year

You always know where to find me.
Sometimes I sit in a different chair,
but essentially things haven’t changed.
I would still accept
a Pulitzer Prize.
This year you’ve found me just returned
from a trip to Mexico distinguished
by four people from Cincinnati who snorted
nose drops in tandem.
I’ve started doing a sit-up for every year,
sweeping away termite wings
and duplicating the movements of women everywhere
as they fold clothes in the dark.
At night now, there are fewer cats
crunching in the mulberry leaves,
and stars blur in front of my first pair of glasses.
This year I stole old doors
for a new house.  I learned that
two-year-olds will spend hours
peeling white glue off their knees.

A captioned photo of an actor
in spats and a straightjacket hangs
in my kitchen.  It reads, “Get me
out of here.  I can make you rich and strong,
strong and rich.”
This year you’ve caught me lining up
my accomplishments into a row of minor works:
a crowd of birds on a piazza floor
hurrying across the tiles,
scrambling up the crumbs.

Appeared in The Malahat Review;
Number 63, October, 1982