Writ on the Eve of my 32nd Birthday

inspired by Gregory Corso’s poem of the same title

I am 32 years old,
and I finally look my age, if not more.

So many strands of gray gathered at my temples, failing to hide among the brown bangs.
Is my skin losing the firm roundness of youth,
or is that just the weight I lost over the course of my twenties?
Have my eyes begun to dull?
At least, I think, there’s more muscle definition in my back, my shoulders, from carrying boxes and bottles at work.

32 and still working part-time, still making less than fifteen dollars an hour.
No books published—
No books published hurts,
but there’s lots of time.
And I have the husband, the sons, the house, the dog.
No debt from college.
No debt except the mortgage and the car—
That has to count for something, right?

Taught myself to spin wool into yarn, bake bread, make my own effervescent ginger ale.
I can start a fire in the wood stove while cooking oatmeal with raisins, the way the boys like it, and brewing tea and soothing the tsunami of discontentment a three-year-old excels in.
I’m probably not much fun
(not without a couple of drinks in me)
but I don’t know that I ever was,
so I probably can’t blame that on my age.

These days they’re saying women only improve with time.
I hope it’s true.
I hope the first thirty-two years have been the warm-up, the practice rounds,
learning the rules, figuring out the proper tactics,
and soon the real game will begin.
I want to be a foul-mouthed old woman who makes no bones about
cutting down fools and cackling hard truths.
I want my value to increase exponentially from here on out.
I’m pretty sure that’ll only work out if I stop fucking worrying about everything for five lousy minutes once in a while.

But if I tried that, my son would probably crash into the coffee table and split his lip wide open,
or the dog would shit on the rug,
or some other domestic disaster would shatter the moments into nothing.
The world owes me those five minutes, I think,
at least once or twice a week

For poetry, for prose, for words, words, words.
They may not make me into the mistress of zen I’d like to be,
fold my laundry for me,
diminish the amount of shouting my parenting involves,
but those sentences—
glinting, sparking, chipped off of eternity—
keep smoldering in my belly the neglected but not forgotten fire.

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