“Birthday” by Dave Margoshes

Dave Margoshes


I was born on a day in July, my father liked to say,
when the birds ceased their singing, held their breath,
gathered in silent flocks on the highest branches
the better to see, a day when the rickety earth seemed
to pause on its axis and even the activity of angels
in heaven came to an abrupt stop, as if to note
the occurrence of something extraordinary, my father
said. But no, I protested, I was an ordinary child,
third and last child to my loving parents, first son
with two sceptical sisters to reckon with, born on
an ordinary day in the all-too-ordinary month
of July, but, agreed, in an extraordinary year, when
there was war to contend with, war and fear
and a shifting along fault lines, but still,
an ordinary child born to an ordinary family,
the start of an ordinary life, nothing for birds
to concern themselves with, let alone angels. But
no, my father insisted, the sky held its breath that day,
pulling the air out of his own lungs. I was there,
he said, I saw it.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

[download audio]


Dave Margoshes: “I’ve been writing poems since I was 16 and actually thinking of them as poetry since my early twenties. I often mine my own life for poems—usually a bit askew, as in this poem, which I wrote on my birthday a few years ago, though I was thinking more about my father that day than about myself. My philosophy of poetics is pretty much along the line of Emily Dickinson’s famous assertion that real poetry is something that knocks your head off. I won’t claim that this poem reaches that high a bar, but that’s what I always shoot for.”

Rattle Logo