How to Celebrate a Birthday by John Hart
Sarah Bates on today's bonus poem: How much of ourselves do we give to the mundane? To Tuesday and Thursday, back stairwells and morning? How much of our life is surviving spare rooms and the sound of winter? John Hart’s “How to Celebrate a Birthday” gives a voice to the things we give to dust, the secrets we tuck away but sometimes show up for cake anyway. Asking, how much can you give? What is it you want to be yours?
How to Celebrate a Birthday
Like a greeting card, the things with secrets speak up:
ghosts in the back stairwell making dust,
the accordion tucked away
near your dress boots in the closet
of the spare bedroom.
It’s been evening since morning; morning
frost still covers the rotten hedge apples
neglected along the edge of the drive,
as though survival is not so slow a process
or life a quick one.
The farm, once, was yours.
The accordion built strong backs
and there was no spare room.
But winter sounds like a breathing machine.
When a cowboy is part of the land,
You bailed the hay,
tagged the cattle,
scratched the chiggers
but offered little of yourself.
—Remember when your son was sick from the tick bite?
He sucked butter from his toast but refused to eat;
yawned like a bailer,
slept like winter hay.
Tomorrow, not lighting a candle to blow out,
you’ll eat two pieces of your cake that casually,
like they are already leftovers.
John Hart was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. He currently resides in Apopka, Florida. His work has appeared in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, and Washington Square Review.