You Own It

By Alice Fulton b. 1952 Alice Fulton
For your birthday, I’m learning to pop champagne corks
with a cossack sword when all you asked for was world peace.
I’m actioning the deliverables to wish you many happy returns

of the ecstasies that are imminent when all you requested
was a contentment so quiet it’s inaudible. Remember when
I gave you a robe of  black silk that floats and does not rustle?
When all you desired was to turn from what was finished and hard

in the darkness. And when you said I gave you what I wanted
myself  I gave you what I didn’t want: gift certificates to spas
that wax hearts, a blind date with the inventor of friction.

Today I bring an actual-size sunrise and many glow words
from the inmates of  this late-stage civilization who navigate
in your slipstream and to whom you say keep rowing.

When you were born you were placed on a small throne on castors
while the Stop Shopping Choir sang hosannas, a defining
moment. People noticed something nascent about you

that persists in your fondness for the first person primordial.
You own it. You know why voices die in throats

and trees struggle in silence: the deepest trauma cannot
spare a sound. If you meet a mystery you do not disturb it

with little picks and suction things. You say the shape
of  happiness is too fine for capture spray, and it is well
to remember the days when plastic boxes snapping shut were all
that women had to celebrate. Yet it is not seditious to rebel
against a culture like circus music, so cheerful

we’d need a cadaver tendon to fix it. That’s what
you say. You are hard to fathom as a guttering compass
that is neither hush nor howl. I’m thinking of  the time

you placed an Aeolian harp in the window, took me
by the notebook, and asked me to consider why

turkeys bob their heads when they walk and geese don’t
though they both waddle. You watched my ethereality show
and commiserated when they adorned my rival

in a deconsecrated rosary bead bikini and send her to St. Barts
while I was remaindered to an orange jumpsuit organ-swiping plot.
That century I was betrayed by a dedicated icemaker,
you burned a feather pen to revive me. You tried

my device that prevents accidental workplace nudity, vetted
its magnetic veils, and at Christmas sent fruitcake
privacy filters. Remember when I was dismissed as overness

consultant? How you resigned in solidarity and grew
a sky-colored flower since I could not be satisfied
with the sky itself? You gave me a robe of  black silk that floats
and does not rustle and advised me to turn from what was finished

and hard in the darkness. If  I critiqued the treasure revealer
you said do not test its softness against your cheek.
Today I raise my glass of wheat grass and atmospheric information

to wish you every beyond of  thought in which to consider
all that is majorly good. I won’t sing Happy Birthday,
a song so overdetermined it sounds bereaved.

I’ll sing of  passions that persist in the Elysian Fields.
Though shackled to a boulder at the moment, I’m unpacking
boxes from your last move, wrapping the contents

in recycled moonlight and presenting them to you
as objects exactly forgotten and largely

what you wanted. I nerve myself  for the encounter.

Source: Poetry (October 2013).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2013
 Alice  Fulton

Biography

Poet and writer Alice Fulton was born in 1952 and raised in Troy, New York. She earned a BA at Empire State College and an MFA from Cornell University. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Dance Script with Electric Ballerina (1982), which won an Associated Writing Programs Award; Palladium (1986), winner of the National Poetry Series; Powers of Congress (1990; reissued 2001); Sensual Math (1995); Felt: Poems . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Birth & Birthdays, Life Choices

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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