"No More Birthdays" by Hal Sirowitz
Don't swing the umbrella in the store,
Mother said. There are all these glass jars
of spaghetti sauce above your head
that can fall on you, & you can die.
Then you won't be able to go to tonight's party,
or go to the bowling alley tomorrow.
And instead of celebrating your birthday
With soda and cake, we'll have
anniversaries of your death with tea
& crackers. And your father & I won't
be able to eat spaghetti anymore, because
the marinara sauce will remind us of you.
This week, I wanted to share with you Hal Sirowitz's book of poems, Mother Said. Just as you can see from the above poem, most of the poems in this collection are pieces of "advice" that the speaker's mother has given him in the past, but we also hear from the speaker's father and various lovers at certain points in the book. I really enjoyed reading this book of poetry. Some of the poems are dark and sad, some extremely funny (like "No More Birthdays"), but all of the poems are quite witty. As I read through the book, I could really hear my own mother saying all of these ridiculous and rambling, but loving, phrases. In fact, I read my mom some of these poems, and she responded by laughing and saying "She's right!" The poems that deal with the speaker's past lover often look at sex through a humorous, self-depricating lense, which I appreciated. I don't know, I suppose I'd just rather hear people being honest and laughing at themselves rather than building themselves up with words. For example, in the poem "Speaking For Her Dog" the speaker's girlfriend complains about how the speaker treats his girlfriend's dog better than her (it really is funny, trust me). Overall, these poems were a bit more narrative and straightforward than I generally read (though I've been told my own poems are quite narrative), but I really enjoyed the wit that played into every single poem. It's not easy to write convincingly in the voice of another person, but Hal Sirowitz does it successfully for 114 pages.
"Speaking For Her Dog"
You bought my dog a new collar,
she said, which she thanks you for,
& which I also thank you for. She wants
what all dogs want, love & t be fed
on time, which you do for her, but
she'll be a lot happier if you also
gave her owner, me, sometime nice
to wear, instead of just giving me kisses,
which I can get anytime I want
from her, & she has a bigger tongue.
"War in the House"
This used to be a quiet family,
Mother said, until you brought Vietnam
into the house. I don't want the war
in my living room. If you and your father
want to argue about it, then do it
in the backyard. There's plenty of room
back there. We hardly use it. It's about time
we got some use out of it. And if both of you
get tired of yelling & decide to do something useful
for a change, then you can always pick up
the dead leaves.
"Serenade" (the one poem in the collection that didn't seem to fit in but that I love anyway)
We sat so close together on the subway
a policeman walked up to us,
took out his nightstick,
put it under his chin like a violin,
& pretended he was serrenading us.
That was the year we loved each other
so much he could have arrested us for it.