Passing Through

Nobody in the widow’s household
Ever celebrated anniversaries.
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
That my friends were given parties.
Before I left town for school
My birthday went up in smoke
In a fire at City Hall that gutted
The Department of Vital Statistics.
If it weren’t for a census report
Of a five-year-old White Male
Sharing my mother’s address
At the Green Street tenement in Worcester
I’d have no documentary proof
That I exist. You are the first,
My dear, to bully me
Into these festive occasions.

Sometimes, you say, I wear
An abstracted look that drives you
Up the wall, as though it signified
Distress or disaffection.
Don’t take it so to heart.
Maybe I enjoy not-being as much
As being who I am. Maybe
It’s time for me to practice
Growing old. The way I look
At it, I’m passing through a phase:
Gradually I’m changing to a word.
Whatever you choose to claim
Of me is always yours:
Nothing is truly mine
Except my name. I only
Borrowed this dust.

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Passing Through