Summer 2006

 

 

 


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Birthday Party
James C. Henderson

The relatives are upstairs talking, even laughing,
as the spot of cancer grows in your mother’s breast.
You are sitting at the bottom of the basement steps
talking to your niece, ten-years-old today,
about a ghost with spiky white hair she’s seen,
holes for eyes and a gaping mouth, no teeth,
just a black maw that swallows one with darkness.
You can love your wife every day—it won’t help.
Money helps. Lord knows, money helps
to buy birthday presents, a profusion
of gift bags and garishly wrapped boxes
your niece opens standing before
the piano gleaming dark mahogany.
A book, a picture frame, a wristwatch and clothes:
skirts, dresses, pants, tops, pajamas and robes,
cotton, wool, jersey, corduroy, and flannel
in pink, lavender, lime, fuchsia, and coral—
more clothes than there are days.

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