Occasional Poem for a Birthday

it’s on days like this, the plain

waking up days, the just get it done

or don’t bother days, with pollen in the air,

and cottonwood seed in a sideways drift,

and soccer fields full of yellow shirts,

and kids calculating their fourth favourite colour

in back seats of cars, that I realize

another year has come and gone,

seamlessly as some student, some god,

idly spins a globe in an empty classroom;

if I wanted to do the math, I could:

how many heartbeats have kept me going,

how many times have I wiped the sleep

from the corners of my morning, made coffee,

looked out at the day, my day,

if I made it so

in the coffee shop, the man sitting next to me

has one artificial arm, and two women on the other side

are whispering about cancer, about cutting her hair

now, for a wig, for later —

I’m not eavesdropping; I’m trying to write a poem here,

but everything sneaks in: Leonard Cohen from above

singing about angels and redemption, the river

I cross each day, so obvious a metaphor

it slips under me

what I think is this: we can’t hold

all our love inside our hearts, some of it

always spills over

we could wish for a longer summer, for less to do,

for days braided with sunlight and tadpoles on the lake,

for half-submerged logs covered in moss and ferns,

for that spasmodic moment when the canoe

finds its own belly in the water

and we push off

Skip to content