Saturday, December 17, 2011

On birthdays and rosebuds

The people in the house behind are having a party tonight.
A 21st birthday, with marquee and balloons, laughter and those strange occasional shouts
that parties always seem to disgorge.
From here, in my darkening room, they sound like nothing so much
as a merry gaggle of geese
gathered at a waterhole as the sun sets
to cluck together and wet their feet
while flying insects are plucked from the sky by waiting beaks.

I sit,
the dull thump-thump of music buzzing gently under my feet,
the weight of the day settling over my shoulders like a bearskin
tired and old. well, old enough.
old enough to feel it, in mind and body both
the fingers of all my days, both beautiful and ungentle
lying on my line-marked skin like clay.

I remember being 21. Oh, not nostalgically
(not really).
I was equal parts uncertain and brash in that time, at once
arrogant and assured, and fearing to chance myself
in case I fell face-down.
I was not, I think, a mature 21, as 21 year olds go.
I was childish, in many ways; self-absorbed, petulant, yes, those too.
I don't think I would like that self, now, should I meet her.
(In fact I did not fully like her then. Thus the self-doubt).

I also remember, though, that at 21
I had a body that worked. Nothing was broken, nothing faltered
That 21 year old, she did not know how to value
never having to think on the energy of a thing, or weigh pain against benefit
drawing from what felt like an inexhaustible well.

They say - I've heard it said -
that youth is wasted on the young. I'm not sure if that's always so
I doubt everyone is as callow (shallow?) as I was then.
But for me, oh yes,
that girl I was
she did not understand (how could she?) what she had
she missed so many chances to see more, do more, be more
she did not gather any rosebuds

and now the roses are in full bloom, and sweet they are
but still I wonder
as I half-smile at the rise and fall of young voices
what might have come
had the buds been gleaned
while the hand was still steady for the plucking.

- Kathy, 17/12/11

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