33

The calendar on the wall says
I am 33 today
As I rush to get ready for work
In the darkness of the early morning.

The fog hangs in the hollows
As I twist and turn
Through the woods and forest glades I wander.
The road is still unclear.

Perhaps I should feel happy
About a day like this
But I only feel the weight on my chest
A little heavier with each number
That increases for my age.

And the sands of time run quickly
As I have fallen far behind
The life I hoped to live
When I was still young enough to smile
And celebrate the coming of
Another year of life.

I arrive at work and coworkers cheer
And I go about my daily tasks
With a few wrinkles
Like a card and a candy bar
A picture for the wall
And I smile for the others
But not for myself.

The date and time on the cell phone says
I am 33 today
But I don’t feel like partying.
Not even a little bit.

*

I do not normally feel poetic on birthdays, but there is at least one other poem that I wrote on the 51st birthday of my mother that has at least a little bit of a resemblance to this one [1]. I wrote my epitaph, a short poem of only four rhyming lines in Spanish, on my mother’s birthday. Ever since 2006 at least, each birthday is a reminder of my own march of life, and the questioning of whether I will be able to keep well enough together to achieve what I am looking for in life. I happened to feel particularly poetic today, though, so I thought I would share this particular poem, as it bears some strong similarities to the general sort of poetry I have been up to lately [2].

Since I am the sort of person who subjects everything to scrutiny and analysis, I would like to comment a little bit on the sort of thoughts that spilled out into poetry today, as well as some of how I plan to spend this day. It should be obvious from the poem that I am not generally someone who celebrates birthdays particularly cheerfully [3]. A few elements show up often in my writing—the relentless passage of time, my being a somewhat hurried person, my observation of the environment around me (here we have the phone and the calendar talking, as well as fog and forest and coworkers). These are elements that are fairly consistent in what I write, at least as my poetry this week has been inspired by a lot of time driving in the early morning and traffic conditions being light enough that my mind has the chance to wander and ponder a little bit.

I would like to comment a little bit on some of the subtle ways in which my poetry relates to some other poems of mine or others. The line “through the woods and forest glades I wander” comes from the song “How Great Thou Art,” which, as it would happen, I sang in special music with the youth choir this past Sabbath (as an alto, which was a first for me, as I regularly sing the tenor in four part harmony and the baritone in three part harmony). For some reason, driving miles through the forest happened to trigger those song lyrics. Additionally, some of the other lyrics, about putting a smile on my face for others, remind me of a series of poems I wrote called “Sonnets Of A Wounded Soul” about seven years ago or so [4], which is not necessarily a happy memory, but a memory nonetheless. Additionally, the song 33 is similar enough in fashion to Taylor Swift’s 22, a song about partying and celebrating, that it is worth at least mentioning that similarity.

I am struck as well by how often numbers appear to be relating to my own posts of late. This past Sabbath, of course, I wrote a post with a number that is very close to one fifth of my age [5], a post which dwells a bit on two of the issues that (formerly) single men in my family had to deal with. Then, of course, my most recent poem earlier this week was about Portland’s 99 Shades of Gray, a number which is precisely three times that of my current age [2]. I am not sure about the significance (if any) of these three numbers being so closely related, but as it is an interesting pattern, I thought it would be worth stating, at any rate.

The imagery of the poem is fairly straightforward. Some of my poetry tends to have unusual symbols or language, but this is a very straightforward series of vignettes about life and the course that it has taken. Some of the images have a symbolic meaning, of course. The sands of time is a reference to an hourglass, and the feeling of life slipping irrevocably away. The fog and wandering through the woods and forest glades are both a reminder of place (specifically, the heavily forested area of the Willamette Valley where I live and work) as well as the fact that the course of my life has been rather mysterious as of late. Certainly, life is not how I would have expected or wanted it, but what course it will take in the future is still yet unknown and uncertain.

There is one further element of this poem I would like to mention. This is the fact that although I am not particularly cheerful for myself for my birthdays, the poem notes the generosity and enthusiasm of other people in celebrating my birthday. There are times in life where other people are happier for us than we are for ourselves. This may not necessarily be a desirable state of affairs, but it is worthwhile at least to note its existence, and to show appreciation for those who are cheerful and happy and wish to spread that joy, so that perhaps I might catch it by contagion, as it were.

*

I am not someone who has ever celebrated birthdays in a particularly dramatic way. I enjoy good food and the fellowship and conversation of friends, but these are things I enjoy in all places and all times, and not something that is unusual to birthdays. Nevertheless, as I tend to find increasing in age rather gloomy, since it means I am further and further behind where I would like to be for myself, and closer and closer to the ages in which my parents either became disabled or died, this is not something that brings me a great deal of joy. In some ways I feel particularly young, and in some ways particularly old, and very rarely do I ever feel as if my life is age-appropriate. I have felt that way since turning 30, and I while I have some strong suspicions as to the reasons why this is the case, I cannot speak for certain about such matters.

Most of my plans for the day are rather pedestrian. I forgot my lunch (namely, a salad, as usual) at home, so I will have to find alternate means of feeding myself, as I don’t plan on fasting today. After work I have some locations in and around the Clackamas Town Center to show my mother, as a sort of momento mori, if you will, and then it is off to dinner for me. Other than that, I hope to read and write a bit, and maybe work on a couple of class, but these are all part of my normal daily grind, and not particularly unique. Of course, there will be people I know who will send me many birthday greetings, and I will smile at them and respond politely, as is my fashion. Other than that, though, I do not know if there is much to celebrate about turning 33.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/mi-epitafio/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/99-shades-of-gray/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/an-unusual-birthday-present/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/how-a-karen-birthday-party-is-like-a-wedding/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/the-bible-on-birthdays/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/a-fortress-around-your-heart/

[4] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/sonnets-of-a-wounded-soul/

[5] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/6-5/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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