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Poems


Your 43rd Birthday:
A User's Guide
for the Single Gay Man

      That is no country for old men ...
            -- William Butler Yeats

Do not go out until later
      when the skin
has had time to take up its slack
      when coffee
has invigorated dull senses
      when curiosity
      (the faint hope
that you might yet meet someone --
            anyone)
has persuaded you to shave.

Use salves and fine soaps if you like.
      Softness and scent
are no substitute for youth's taut chest
            or rosy cheek
but at least you have done
            what you could.
      Indulgence may have to be
      its own reward.
Find time to go running
      to prove you still can.

Do not measure the cost of your car
      the size of your office
against those of people younger than you.
      What do they know,
            after all?
Do not listen to NPR. It reports so often
      on cancer
but never says what you can do
to avoid it --
      for those around you
            for yourself.
Do not read personals ads --
      "Looking to meet fit WM, 21-32 ... "
      "If you are under 35 ... "
      "You: GWM/GHM, 25-40, not bald
(exception: if you're Patrick Stewart)."
      At least losing your hair
            didn't bother you.
Do not count your birthday cards.

And if you think of people
you have loved and lost
      tint regret with fondness.
Recall sprawling with Miguel
      on the blue sofa
      in your old apartment
            late at night
            chatting, laughing
      sambucca in tumblers on the coffee table
      his head on your shoulder.
Remember
      the jazz singer you heard with him
            in that restaurant on Columbia Road
      how much
            you both smiled.
Never forget
      how much
            you have smiled.

So light candles
      uncork wine
turn the stereo up loud and
play Ella Fitzgerald.
Make the pasta sauce Alfredo
      never mind the grams of fat.
It's your birthday -- dance a little
even if you're dancing in the kitchen
      even if you're dancing alone.



February, 2001


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