Saturday, March 16, 2013

Poem for My Cousin on Her 70th Birthday

Barbara has been a flight attendant and a toy designer. She was a preemie. She paints in oils, does a lot of yoga, and is creative in everything. 

To Write the Number 70

                                    - for my dear Barbara, on her birthday

To write the number 70 we begin
with a short lateral line, a line
that goes from a premature Point A
to a paint-drenched Point B, knowing
Points C through G (or perhaps
as far as K) are still to come.

We have much to pack on that line. We could
make paper dolls . . . the two of us at three
in costume, the two of us at ten, en pointe,
blank paper dolls for you to dress in fashion
for the teen and college years, then one of you
perfectly turned out for flight, and the two of us
modeling skirts made with Singer and vodka.
The maternity doll,  the do-it-yourself doll,
the designer doll, the doll designed,
the decorating doll, the homemaker doll, the widow
doll, all beautiful. And then the sister dolls
again, in gardening clothes, wirelessly connected.

To write the number 70 we then
make a graceful downward line
(like a downward dog, not a downward
spiral), stopping when we want to and not
a millimeter before or after. We are in charge.
It is our space and our number.

Then it is time to move our brand new
pencil, sleekly sharpened, up to the top.
Always aware of our handwriting, especially
on important occasions, we assess
the seven, the lifeline and its symbols,
the texture of the paper, the light,
the silence (or lack thereof), whether or not
our bangs are in our eyes, if we’re hungry
(if we are, we take a moment to contemplate
popovers), and then we make our move:
not a zero—never a zero—but a perfect oval,
bringing everything together, just for a moment . . .
before we set ourselves free to live some more.

                                    Susan Luckstone Jaffer