April 2016 Winner

Birthday

m.nicole.r.wildhood

These thirties shouldn’t be mine yet.
I used to wait for them like I waited for
Christmas morning.

Then, a few years ago, I started to notice
Santa’s skeins of white hair, his rugose forehead,
that his reindeer would have to drop him

off right by the chimney so he didn’t have
far to walk, just like we do with my fragile
grandmother.

Age seemed painful, impossible –
to get and to live with, but Christmas started
to crawl up quicker every year.

This last one – I almost missed it.
I have been executing these extraordinary
disciplines of eating, bathing, breathing,

apparently at Godspeed – how else would I have
gotten here so fast, broken so soon
my pinky-promise to myself that,

as I eagerly grew up, I would never get old?
That I would always crawl
in the car head first not slide in sideways;

always cannonball into the pool
not slip in slowly like you see moms
doing at the edges; always chew gum

and always tremble with bright eyes through each day
between December 1st and the morning where
all you’ve ever wanted was waiting for you

under a sagging fan of pine? The last year I tried
to keep this tinsel-tinged holiday spirit
until my birthday at the end of February was my 29th.

Thirties, from this close to it, seems less
like a pile of gifts under a bright tree
and more like a jaw ache (no Wrigley’s for me)

or a square of maybe gorgeous
but very cold water: I’ve missed
the chance to slide in inch by inch.

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