What I Want for My Birthday
A hankie like a quilt,
made from silks in every color,
with shimmering seams
and a snake’s tongue of red.
A holiday under palms
where bronzed men attend with unguents.
One season in someone else’s mouth,
a bed of plush for my impatient heart,
bangles for my half-fat, half-muscled arms.
Love for pallid skin and hairs
in the wrong place, tributes, even, to my beauty.
At last, a pet tortoise in a cage so large
she takes a day to get from end to end.
I will crouch down and look in her rough face,
and she will push her head straight at me
and give me wisdom from her leathery eyes.
Home in the wee hours, I’ll find her in her shell
and remember Beckett’s Winnie, half-buried in earth. Winnie, I’ll call her, and trundle on another year.
Hair white, indigo-eyed,
Mother calls me to the last
flaring of her summer garden.
On our evening walk, Father’s
head turns slowly when I point
to the still egret by the pond.
Midnight, cicadas’ frettings
mark my sleep. At dawn, brittle
shells litter the lawns. I bend
to look at thin, veined wings.
“Bury me,” my father says,
“without ado in a pine coffin.”
“Do what you like,” says
my mother, “with my ashes.”
In their living room, I hold
each one’s hand. Beebalm
flames beneath the window.
Natania Rosenfeld’s book of poems, Wild Domestic, was published by Sheep Meadow Press, and she is also the author of a critical book, Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf (Princeton 2000). Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared in numerous publications including The American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Raritan, and Michigan Quarterly Review, and three essays have been listed as Notable in recent Best American Essays collections. She has been a Fellow at a number of writers’ and artists’ colonies, including Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is Professor of English at Knox College.