Everyone has two birthdays
according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,
the day you were born and new year—
a quirky observation to ponder
while I’m waiting in a kitchen for the tea water to boil,
transformed by the morning light
to one of Matisse’s brilliant rooms.
“No one ever paid attention to the first of January
with indifference,” writes Lamb,
for other than Groundhog Day
or the Feast of the Annunciation,
this marks nothing but the passage of time,
I realized as I lowered a tin diving bell
Tea leaves in a small amount of boiling water.
I admit, regarding my own birthday
as the happy anniversary of my existence
probably because I was and remain
an only child until that cold day at the end of December.
And as an only child…
an only child sipping tea, munching toast
in a colorful room this morning –
I would welcome an extra birthday
another chance to stop what we’re doing
for a moment and think about my existence here on earth.
And one more birthday could be a consolation
to all of us that we must also suffer an anniversary of death,
an X in a square
in some kitchen calendar of the future,
the day each of us will be thrown off the train of time
by a burly, heartless conductor
as it roars through the months and years,
Party hats, candles, confetti and horoscopes
billows in the turbulent storm of its wake.
First published in Ballistics
Titians "Venus of Urbino" On New Year’s Eve [by David Lehman]