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ted kooser, “a birthday card”

04/29/13 , , , , , , , , , ,

A Birthday Card
by Ted Kooser

In her eighties now, and weak and ill
with emphysema, my aunt sends me
a birthday card—a tossing ocean
with clipper ship—and wishes me well
at forty-four. She’s included
a note—hard-bitten in ballpoint,
with a pen that sometimes skips whole words
but never turns back—to tell me
her end of the news: how the steroids
have softened her spine, how
every X ray shows more shattered bone.
Her hasty words skip in and out,
their little grooves washed clean of ink,
the message rising and falling
like short-wave radio, sending
this hurried S.O.S., with love.

via poetry mag.  two things that struck me about this:

  • sometimes birthdays are a sweet vacation from reality.  a time to gorge on salutations & strawberry cheesecake because for 24 hours, you’re the most special person in the world.  the former poet laureate brings things back home with his “birthday card.”  the poem gives us something more somber than celebratory, more sad than joyous, and yet still manages to uplift and inspire a smile.  if it’s not a more “honest” birthday card, it’s at least a more balanced one.
  • love how the last lines (“Her hasty words…with love.”) build on earlier imagery (e.g. sending short-wave radio s.o.s. & the earlier clipper ship on a tossing ocean) and speak for things larger themselves (the aunt, the poem, life).

who gave you your most memorable birthday card?  what made the card stand out from the rest?

related: facing the waves of life



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1 notes

  1. life rewind 2013: must-reads | atolemdro reblogged this and added:

    […] ted kooser, “a birthday card” […]

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