Twelfth Birthday

By Rachel Hadas b. 1948 Rachel Hadas
As if because you lay
(deeply embarrassing) inside
my body, I could (inconceivable)
follow your swift thoughts into their blue   
immersion even now,
stilettoes flickering, or schools of fish
maneuvering, first clear and then occluded,
though now and then a piercing gleam cuts through;

as if the snow reflections that glaze   
the winter afternoon to porcelain
could penetrate the secrets of a skull
that happens to have lodged (improbable)
inside me once. Your liberation
twelve years ago today is the occasion   
you and your friends are celebrating now   
behind a door that’s firmly shut.

The fantasy you’ve lately been devouring   
features an evil mage with hourglass eyes.   
Last week, when you were furious at me
(I must have thrown some precious thing away),   
you swiftly slipped into your parents’ room   
and turned the bedside clock an hour ahead.   
Discovered as the culprit, wickedly
you smiled. You knew time was my enemy.

Rachel Hadas, “Twelfth Birthday” from Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Rachel Hadas. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Poetry (February 1997).


This poem originally appeared in the February 1997 issue of Poetry magazine

February 1997
 Rachel  Hadas


The daughter of renowned classical scholar Moses Hadas, whose early death she has said gave her a “premature sense of the yoking of love and loss,” Rachel Hadas has published numerous collections of poetry, essays, and translations, including most recently the memoir Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry (2011) and the poetry collections The Ache of Appetite (2010) and The Golden Road (2012). Kevin Walzer, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Living, Time & Brevity, Birth & Birthdays, Arts & Sciences, Relationships, Reading & Books, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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