Prayer for a Birthday
By Mark Wunderlich
My privilege and my proof, pressing your eternal skin to mine--
I feel your fingers touching down on the crown of my head
where I pray they remain during this life and in the next.
The intricacies of your world astound me.
You flickered through the rooms where my mother dwelt,
when I was naked and formless as a seal, sensitive
to the tides of her body. I did not come too early onto land,
did not emerge until my days were written
on the translucent pages of your enormous book.
The great lid of your eye peeled back to see I was not yet whole.
I remember today the day of my birth.
Your words washed that which clung to me from the other side,
bound to me the promised ghost.
I was dipped and sponged, cut free,
delivered as I was like a lamb lodged in his dam. Tears and pain
were her price, and I was handed over to be wiped with straw.
You built me, bone by bone, counting
the hairs that would one day thatch my crown,
building cleverness in my hands, weakness in my knees,
a squint and a taste for cake. You showed me
the dip of a man's clavicle, arrow of ankle and calf,
weaving in me a love of those bodies like my own,
yet not mine. When you turned to your next task
a shadow crossed the room stirred from the muddy banks
rimed with ice. In the spot where my skull was soft
it set down its stylus and inked a bruise--
a scrap used to blot a leaking pen. Since then
my mind has raced toward the brink, spun
and knit and torn out the same silvery threads
only to wind them up again. Still, the bargain
you made without my consent has left me
here to ponder your airy limbs striding through the sky,
the red rustle of your gown. A season ago, I looked out upon the verdure
of the small meadow below the house--boggy in parts--
the pollard willows gnarling and sipping from gnat-speckled pools,
the turkeys scratching under the sweep of green
as it prepared to die back for another year, littered with mute papery tongues.
You are easier to see when you denude your world with decay.
And so I saw you there, flashed in the shallow water,
parting the curtain of the willow fronds and warming my face with light.
My mother and father call me and sing,
sweet and tuneless, their voices worn down by your turning wheel.
You have kept us together for half a man's natural years,
these last the tenderest as their bodies
break and their minds dip deeper into dust
to bring forth the features of distance.
My day will be spent here, in the middle of things,
feeding split logs into the stove, cats coiling through rooms
as the snow ticks at the windows' double panes.
I will read a book with snow at its center,
in a forest lost inside a forest in the north, the sun
an afterthought in the darkest days of the year.
I am thankful for all that buffers me from the cold,
all that binds me to my clan,
though I see a future strange and tuneless
as I push forward into the mind's blinding field of white.
"'Prayer for a Birthday' is part of a larger project I undertook in which I freely adapted prayers from a German-American prayer book published in 1873," writes Wunderlich at Poets.org. "I needed to turn back to another century to grant myself permission to write poems to a God I don't believe exists."
I had a nice, pretty low-key birthday involving obscene amounts of food and some nice presents (principally the Asus Transformer Book and Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies plus several other books). Adam made me a card and said he'd owe me a present; Paul said he'd owe me a card because he wasn't up for drawing one given the week we've had, which I totally understand...I wasn't really in the mood for a birthday, though Facebook does make birthdays pretty enjoyable.
Our internet was out in the morning, so I went back to sleep till about 9:30 before even trying to get anything done; it came back around 10 and Paul came home to take me to lunch, then worked from here for the rest of the day. We went to La Madeleine for tomato soup, spinach quiche, and their awesome bread and jam, then did a little bit of shopping and came home until Adam was out of school. Since he can't bike, I picked him up and dragged him to the mall to get a bag for my new computer toy.
Over the weekend, Daniel thought he was going to be too busy to celebrate my birthday with me, but since he had no classes on Tuesday due to snow, he finished his big paper. So we went to College Park along with my mother to pick him up and went to the Silver Diner there (I had eggs benedict and a chocolate milkshake even though I was still full from lunch). Then we came home for Nashville. Here are some photos of the too-much-food I've had over the past couple of days, will try to catch up on pics and mail soon.
The Silver Diner