30th Birthday

May I never be afraid
                     especially of myself   
                                                      but
Muhammed Ali are you telling
the truth?      
                     Well you’re being true aren’t you and
you talk so wonderfully in your body
                     that protects you with physique of voice
      raps within dance
                              May I never be afraid

                     rocked and quaked         
                                                      the mantilla is lace
                                                      whose black is oak
But if I’m dark I’m strong
                                       as my own darkness
my strength the universe   
                                       whose blackness is air
                                       only starry
                                       lace
But if I’m alive I’m strong   
                                           as life
Strong as the violets
in Marlon Brando’s fist
                                  his dissemblance flourished into truth   
                                                                                              She
took them
I’d take me too   
                           I do
                  and my Ali I see you      
                                                   a hard bright speck of me
the savage formalist
                               authentic deed of gossip
                   a kind body

Alice Notley, “30th Birthday” from Selected Poems (Talisman House, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by Alice Notley. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Alice Ordered Me To Be Made (Talisman House, Publishers, 1976)