The predictable birthday present
What's the present that you give to one person and then share with everyone else?
A poem of course.
I wrote this once I realized that I wasn't going to make it to New Orleans for Neil Gaiman's 50th birthday party - poverty, fecklessness and my own and other people's health were all factors in this. It would have been nice to be there, but it didn't happen and there is an end on't.
And here's the poem I sent instead.
THREE SONNETS FOR NEIL GAIMAN
There is an ache when something's not yet come
just like the one when something's gone away.
A rotten tooth perhaps. You may well say
it's better gone, keep sucking at the gum.
It took infection with it, you can taste
no foulness. And when something's not arrived
then does, you wonder just how you survived
without it. All the time before's a waste
you could have been enjoying it. And when
the new thing is a person, is a friend,
you wonder how you ever got to spend
so many years without them. Then, again,
the bliss of knowing something new can start
is bubbles like champagne that jump your heart.
The facts then. My friend Rachel said she'd met
a writer I would like. His name was Neil.
I hadn't yet learned quite how I should feel
when she tweaks destiny. I hadn't yet
learned to expect like some child on the night
before a birthday to anticipate
presents unwrapping. I don't know the date-
some party for Ben Bova. Thought I might
show up, grab drink, and then I saw a nest
of dark hair, and dark glasses and a smile,
thought this is something new. After a while
we chatted and I thought this is the best
first conversation ever. Such things are
proof I'd been pulled in orbit round a star.
This is a praise song. Though I'm sure you'd guessed.
Most of you pretty much know how it goes
to stand around admiring. I suppose
there's nothing he can't do. The man is blessed
with such facility. He's charmed a Muse
perhaps, or several, talks to them all night
walking long streets, and afterwards they might
beg to buy breakfast for him. In his shoes
most would be arrogant, he's really not.
So sweet that his successes cannot sour
his kindness. Anyway, this is the hour
for celebration of him. I cannot
be present, so I must ask all who're here
to celebrate Neil's birthday with a cheer.