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Happy Birthday

Another November 
off my list. What’s left?
Damp laundry, your
hesitating kiss.
My egg breath
and shoehorn thighs.
I’ve leaned your name
in my mouth 
like a rake,
and tallied all
the dependable
things:
 
tap water, junk mail,
the rough shade you cast
when I turn my head just so
to the left, the rag
stuffed beneath my dish rack,
half-black and blurred as a rubbed eye,
the stains bearding the bathroom
window and the sky.
 
I’m still renting my pay from the city.
Still reading the Times
like a barcode. No smarter
than I started, 
but no more guilty than a bathrobe.
 
Duty is still my body
catching the 49 bus,
patience is the paint chip
in the white kitchen wall
where a square of red 
blinks like a brake light
and habit,
 
if we have it,
is your toothbrush drying
in the short plastic cup.
Behind the house a hubbub 
of rhubarb
doubles down under the dirt. Your tomatoes
are as green as green grows.
Posted 04/25/11
This poem originally appeared in Poetry Northwest
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