Birthday Poem

birthday poem

the first two years were easy.
the parts we liked about ourselves
were the ones we picked apart
and admired from up close.

the third year was easing into
routines that changed before we learned
to live with our old selves.
in the middle of the confusion
we found new versions of ourselves
that we liked more than the last.

each time i outgrew a habit or value
you grew into something
that was easier to love.
so by the fourth year we were experts.
we could read each other’s eyes
and know the look for
i need a glass of water
and the one for let’s get out of here.

yet i never aced the birthday gift.
no inkling of what you wanted
because you always said
you wanted nothing.

and i knew it was true—
you were afraid to want things.
you were doomed to never get
the things you wanted.

but this year you had an answer
whispered like prayer:

take care of yourself
just be healthy
take care
so i’d never have to
have a birthday
without you.