I wake and you are all day turning
fifty-five, that double-nickel year
I recently finished and would have passed
the baton to you—no hand stretched to grab,
grasp, grip, no fists pumping the air.
You left me on this dust, left your shadow
in the dresser for a while.
Your white gold ring we picked out together
nests in its dove-gray case,
as though the past could wear velvet.
No, it’s drinking tea or vodka
in an upstairs room, the walls as vivid blue
as the city chapel where we said I do.
The magistrate said Next.
That day sits behind the door I locked,
bolted, climbed the ladder down for decades.
Yes, since your last birthday
it’s been twenty-three springs
and the years are knocking at me—
wanting out, to crawl between my ribs again,
sit round and open like that band
in the drawer, and some days I try to find the key
to remember how to say Hello, Thank you,
some afternoons like today
when you would be fifty-five.
Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring, from Ravenna Press, plus two chapbooks and a pamphlet. Stangeland’s poems have also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Off the Coast, Santa Fe Literary Review, and other journals.