Birthday, Again

by Julie Feng

In sequential glint, we count the world
by rounding up. Seventeen is but a slip
and nineteen is epiphany. Within the umbra
of any canopy—a forest of ship masts, my mother’s
arms, the annulets of oaks in my old
backyard—I can see how things are lost.
Splinters of syllables sprout at the tip of the shoot:
my mother’s laugh under the trees. Someone saying
how if I split a limb open, I can see the clock
tick, I can keep circadian. Groves to orchards
to groves again. The rinds are strung
with time’s trinkets: roots sunk in loose dirt,
the peeling picket fence encircled by leaves, and how old
my mother was when she died. A good vintage
rinses my mouth of mushrooms. Age
and era, so serious. By the boughs, the sour smell
of cracking paint, the mossy rake resting against chipped
brick wall, stems my mind back to then. I feel her arms,
the skin like bark, limbs and limbic system, arthritic
arithmetic. You see, chickadee? I just learned that
tree rings are dead things.

Julie Feng is originally from Taipei, Taiwan. She now lives, works, and teaches in Seattle. She is the recipient of the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize, the Arthur Oberg Prize for Poetry, and the Academy of American Poets Award.