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SELF-PORTRAIT AT 39
by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Every year my birthday comes in April,
with a fickle sun and pollen on my fingers.

I wake up in a field with a scrap of cloth in one hand
and a fistful of wheat in the other. Wheat represents
a blonde fertility goddess fading with the light; the cloth
is the floral print prom dress that still hangs in my closet.

Did you ever think you’d make it this far? Imagined children
in the distance like somber ghosts, taking notes. You have lost them,
your home, the name of their imaginary fathers.
Shades of a different country, forgotten.

In the years close to forty a woman might stop looking
in the mirror. But when I was thirteen, I dreamed of thirty-nine.
Even then my hair turning grey, my blue eyes washing out,
wishing to be taller, older, free as trees in the wind.

In my imagined future I wore pink heels with white shorts;
the future would be full of bookshelves, clean carpet, champagne glasses.

These days I drive fast and play the music as loud as I like.
I am not afraid of the policemen. The shine of water makes me
reckless, necklines more restless.

Come help me blow out the candles. We will eat only the frosting
and put on movies about vulnerable boys standing in the rain,
waiting for us to come out to them, pale and patient as the April moon.

IMAGE: “Pink Shoes” (mixed media) by Janelle Nichol. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and, upcoming in 2015 from Mayapple Press, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Her website is webbish6.com.