Poem of the Week

December 1st

by Billy Collins

Today is my mother’s birthday,
but she’s not here to celebrate
by opening a flowery card
or looking calmly out a window.

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

Mother, I would love to see you again
to take you shopping or to sit
in your sunny apartment with a pot of tea,
but it wouldn’t be the same at 114.

And I’m no prize either,
almost 20 years older than the last time
you saw me sitting by your deathbed.
Some days, I look worse than yesterday’s oatmeal.

Happy Birthday, anyway. Happy Birthday to you.
Here I am in a wallpapered room
raising a glass of birthday whiskey
and picturing your face, the brooch on your collar.

It must have been frigid that morning
in the hour just before dawn
on your first December 1st
at the family farm a hundred miles north of Toronto.

I imagine they had you wrapped up tight,
and there was your tiny pink face
sticking out of the bunting,
and all those McIsaacs getting used to saying your name.

 

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