Birthday Note

It couldn’t be helped. If your birthday is on some iconic day, like Christmas or Easter, then the tone of the celebration leaches into your being for all time. Raised Catholic, I attended Mass on my birthday, All Soul’s Day. The black vestments and subdued text made a big impression. Without that cultural context this day would just seem like a sad mishap of a prolonged labour missing Halloween. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy my birthday now. I do and I will. I am looking forward to lunch with friends, to browsing around Enniskillen and eating cake that I haven’t baked. It’s just I cannot help but need it to be a little low key, in keeping with the general tenor of the day.  Lunch, not a party.  Unless you invite the ghosts. And childhood parties were always Halloween feasts with me dressed as a Romany woman. Even then my mother must have reckoned I had itchy feet. I was not fated to stay in one place for long until I landed in rural Ireland.

More and more I am relaxing into blank verse. That is today’s form for poetry practice. The poem’s train of creation began when I read a Carol Ann Duffy quotation in a Guardian Review interview published 27th October, 2018.

I think poets should write not only from the somewhere but from somewhen.

Birthday Note


I was born in an alternate time zone.

Men went to work wearing a Homburg hat.

Their wives got to stay at playing at home.

It felt happy for them. They had had

a war after all.  And The Depression.

It felt like progress, being middle class.

Some little girls get notions of more scope

for their ambitions. Beyond the hourglass

shape their body would take. Life offers more

than wineglass Queen For A Day door prize hopes.

But perhaps it comes of being born in

the Empire State. Maybe its DNA,

that three generations New York City

water stays in the system. Even when

as an infant your family moves away.

Perennially out of place. Pity

is way out of date. It was written

on my birth certificate. Born to have

a nomadic soul, born on All Soul’s Day.

day that celebrates in black vestments.

Day to remember those suffering souls

wandering in no man’s land purgatory,

the stateless, the homeless, lost and lonely.

Day that remembers someone somewhere else

in the dusky twilight of somewhen.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

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