—for a friend on the occasion of his seventy-something birthday
Now as you approach that swinging door
And think this day you’ve just arrived, before
You realize you’re also leaving seventy and more,
Do not be sad, and do not fear;
You get to keep this number for another year.
What’s in a number anyway? No more
Than abstract stuff enough to bore
To songlessness a moody troubadour
Or make a turnip shed a tear
Or take the rooster out of Chanticleer.
No, it’s not the numeral that we deplore
But tendencies of an outworn folklore
To make one seem a dinosaur
When it is perfectly, quite clear
To one’s own mind: “I’m not as I appear.”
In one’s own mind, one is eleven evermore:
One day a cowboy, next a sagamore,
Then a young blade barefoot on the shore
Lit up by love, crushed by a cruel sneer.
The feelings do not age, they persevere.
So let us spit the bitter in the cuspidor,
Immortalize the sweetness in a metaphor
And raise our voices in a great “Encore!”
This birthday thing’s a time for cheer,
A time for more than one more beer.
And if you come a little bit footsore,
Wearing a birthday suit unlike the one you wore
Into this life—this life that you adore—
So what? You are still you, still dear,
But best of all, you are still here.
April is much too
late in March for snow
but I feel much more like I do
now than I did a while ago
for I’ve just seen a great movie–
don’t miss it if you possibly can–
it was like a flash in the dark
or a shot in the pan
and in three dimensions:
black and white and color,
you know, a casual affair
between a donut and a cruller?
The theme, I think, was LIFE
(but you really had to be there)
starring Beatrice Somebody
& Art Guesswho. (I wonder
who does her hair…and why).
Anyway, these two were like
twins, though one looked
more alike, and listen to this:
“they read no more that day.”
And if that doesn’t take your
day and make your cake,
right there I gave myself
to Art, just for art’s sake.
(I wrote this 35 years ago and take it out for an airing
now in honor of April Fool’s Day. The snowbanks
along the sides of my street are still five dirty feet high.)
The Christmas Fake Book
slumps a little, limp
beneath the piano light,
looking a bit leftover
this december twenty-sixth–
as if it could not hark
to one more herald angel,
little town of Bethlehem or
It has served well
the eye, the ear,
the memory in the fingers
dancing on the keys.
It has sustained the loud,
who gathered here to sing
those half-remembered verses
come to haunt again this year.
Now it’s done,
like christmas day itself–
all noise and wonder
packed in a small space.
It will go back
to live among the sheaves
of music on a shelf, there
at the very bottom of the stack,
to take its usual place.
. THE CHRISTMAS FAKE BOOK