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Birthday -- poetry by Isabel Brozen

Hat and gloves.
Puffer coat over snow pants, over insulated rubber boots painted with little red flowers.
Slide down the gentle slope on my little black sled,
Tramp back up to the top and slide down again.
Throw snowballs for the dog to chase.
Return to the icy back step,
Snow-soaked with flushed rosy cheeks and running nose,
Fleece sweater soaking up sweat.

Shiny paper - gold red and blue
looped with ribbon and hidden tape.
Glitter snowflake print and pastel peonies on aquamarine.
No poinsettias or holly to be seen
Wrapping gifts
Stacked at the end of the table,
On the deep blue, heavy cloth
Covered in white stitches.

Pale buttercream cake
Piled in pink frosted twists of petals
A mountain of beautiful swirled roses
Green curling leaves draping down like thread.
A cake I shared with my great grandmother so many years ago,
Her birthday 4 days after mine, 87 years before mine.
I saw her reach her 100th year before I watched
Her absence from our gatherings,
Stretch long and wide and full
And dull and smooth with time

Chlorine scent in my nose
Sharpening the cold prick at my lungs.
The scent clinging to my softened skin and in my still wet hair
Feeling the bump of the ground under my feet
Each step a reminder, that out here,
I can no longer glide
Through a world of cerulean skies
Marked in light fragments of the surface.

A mug of hot milk and fluffy slippers
To match the fluffy robe wrapped around me.
Sitting in the piny living room by the wood stove
Glowing with heat and light.
In the morning I found the little angel in an orange dress with golden horn
Inside the dark blue box marked ‘15,’
And today her magnet lets her soar between wooden stars
Over a stable and little magnet cows.
The tree stands at the far end of the room
The cold white lights gleaming like stars
Between the branches and whimsical decorations.
An ornament for every year or trip away from home
A story for every one.
Straw stars and glass bubbles,
Wooden ships and metal towns,
Clay mice, famous figures, and brightly painted sea life,
Creatures of wood and resin peek between pine needles,
Birds - carved, beaded, feathered, or sewn - soar around the upper branches.
The fluffy abominable snowman (that I was frightened of for years)
Hangs the star from the very top.

Dirt ground into the lines of my palms.
Sweet horse sweat and feed,
Dusty hay chaff
Cold rubber ground
Swept cement floor
The cold creeping under doors, through windows, and up walls.
The warm soft prickle as today’s partner wipes her nose off
On my tight fit pants, wrapped in chaps around the calves
A smear of green hay spit is left behind
My birthday gift
Nothing compared to the calm, happy, tired, and centered I now feel
Thanks to these gentle, curious, and contented creatures,
And my favorite bossy lady who commands the respect of the barn -
That today reaches another anniversary of existence.

Pasta dinner and cupcakes
Carrot, caramel, or chocolate
Neatly frosted and quickly devoured.
Sitting round the coffee table by the roaring wood stove
On the couch, chairs, and cushions on the floor.
Shrieking with laughter at each witty response.
Or the clever tactic designed to thwart the opposing colored chips on the board,
It’s sprawling leaves covered in tiny bright icons and directions.

Little faces made of pixels
Separated into grids of boxes
Still manage to show their loving chaos
Through the chaos of the year.
No need to do anything
But listen and laugh.

The crunch of ice beneath my rubber boots painted with little red flowers
Sharp and crackling like the December air in my lungs
Wreaths on doors and glowing windows in the dark afternoons.
The mad rush to the end of the school term
To enter the rush of the holiday season.
Soon to see family - We’ll sing, work Christmas puzzles, eat excellent food,
And celebrate each others’ presence at the New Year.
But that’s next week.
This week (or what I can scrape away from school) belongs to me.

Shiny paper - gold purple and blue
looped with ribbon and hidden tape.
Patterned cloth knotted cleverly round gifts
Stacked at the end of the table,
On the deep blue heavy cloth
Covered in white stitches.

Lights out.
Tiny little flames dancing atop pillars of striped candy colored wax
Standing on a dais of glossy chocolate,
Little purple frosting roses round the edges,
My name in loopy letters.
My mom’s sweet notes soaring, my dad’s notes dragging out of tune.
The little stars of fire shine through the glass of the hanging beveled bubble
Sending fragmented spiders’ webs of light and shadow across the ceiling.
Swell my lungs and think a wish.
Whatever is wished will be too big or too small, and never quite fit the moment.
A wish from all the years of wishes.
Puff out the air
And (for just a moment let the light flicker and flutter like billowing cloth)
Blow the candles out.
The light comes back on.
Lights onto a new year.


Isabel Brozen is a sophomore at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire. She likes the way words sound when they are meant to be kind and empowering. She spent a lot of her childhood learning how to make pictures with adjectives, though she’s seldom shown these pictures to anyone outside her circle of friends. She is learning how to not be anti-social. She hopes to learn from people from all walks of life. Books are her windows into other worlds. She is still figuring out who she is.

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