Howard Firkin
(Happy birthday to me)
I know I’m heading where you’ve gone. I feel
the fingernails along my skin that raise
these welts, the stench of foetid breath that stays
inside my nose and lungs, the blade of steel
that’s drawn across my back in slow incision.
I stop and stand in pools of sunlight now.
I wait and drink the warmth and give my thanks
and smile at fate and all its puerile pranks—
it’s soggy spitballs bounce off anyhow—
serenity is making one decision.

Some time today someone will play the Beatles
(’Happy Birthday’ off the Double White).
I’ll sing along, the way we all repeat
our comfort phrases: ’love you’, ’ciao’, ’good night’.