Birthday Afternoon at the Chesapeake Trailer Park
by Tobi Cogswell

Bare toes with ballerina-pink polish scrunched tightly
in the cool soft dirt outside the double-wide.
She blew out the candles on her cake,
set up on a card table outside in the summer air.

Contrails connected clouds hanging in the blue sky
as puffy as icing, shadowing the ground. A Leo,
she was used to these outside summer celebrations—
the shy part of her cringed every moment.

You’re a year older now, what is your wish? asked formal
Mr. Lowe from across the way. Poor Mr. Lowe,
himself hitting a new low because of a wife who took him
for all, leaving him to pick himself up at the Chesapeake.

How could she tell him her wish was to be left alone?
She pushed back her hair, looked at her mother’s
friends trying to pretend her a nice day, even Mona
with the ever-present menthols who blew smoke in her face,

said I have everything I want. For a moment she even
believed. Her supposed contentment blessed her mother,
the friends, poor Mr. Lowe, even the Manager.
That was the day she learned power…

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In “Birthday Afternoon at the Chesapeake Trailer Park,” there are several sets of homophones: Blew and Blue, Lowe and low, you’re and your. I woke up from an afternoon nap with the title, and wrote the poem. This is rare for me. I usually write the poem first, then struggle for a title.

IMAGE: “The Birthday Cake” by Le Pho (1975).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tobi Cogswell is a four-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden, and Australia. In 2012 and 2013 she was short-listed for the Fermoy International Poetry Festival. In 2013 she received Honorable Mention for the Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize. Her sixth and latest chapbook is Lapses & Absences, (Blue Horse Press). Her seventh chapbook, The Coincidence of Castles is available from Glass Lyre Press. She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (