Black Birthday

In another life
or perhaps in a parallel universe,
I would be gathering 50 plastic pink flamingoes
and posting your baby picture
on telephone poles
all over town.
I might be buying black armbands
for the party
and black crepe paper
to stretch across your drive
and around the tombstone,
we would plant in your yard.
The party would be planned.
The black cake ordered.
And, oh, the gifts.
For months we would have been looking
for those “special” gifts.
The ones like Porcelana
to hide the age spots
and Grecian Formula
to cover up all that grey.
Of course, there would be an application
to join AARP
and perhaps retirement information
from Social Security.

The laughter would be building.
It would be so hard to hold it in.
We would hardly be able to wait
until tomorrow
for your fiftieth birthday party,
My Brother.
My only brother.

But in this world, in this life.
It is not that way.

How can this be?

We lost so many years together.
Forty-three to be exact.

Mother never forgot.
She kept it to herself most of the time
but she never forgot

Once before Memorial Day
we went to buy flowers
for all the family graves.
And as we looked and tried to choose,
she turned to me with eyes overflowing
and asked “What kind of flowers do you buy
for a seven-year-old boy?”

She never forgot
though she seldom talked about it.

Not long before she died
Mother said the old saying
that time heals all wounds was a lie.
Because every time she thought of you
and that terrible night,
it was like it just happened the day before.

With me, the years seem to make it worse.

Maybe because so many others have gone
leaving me more and more alone.
All the grandparents,
then Pop,
then Mother,
aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.

Less and less of the past
To hold on to.

Happy birthday, Brother.

Happy birthday, Johnny.

What I’d give to have a birthday hug
or to see what the years have done,
to see the lines in your face,
the grey in your hair.

Oh, the years we lost.
I never knew how much I would miss you
and miss all the things
we would have shared.

I miss you
and I miss all the others
that have left me behind

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday

Michael Mathews

It will never be Home – Margate, FL

June 13, 2001

~6:43 PM