Every year is a celebration
until you’re old enough
to wake up drunk
in a stranger’s house.
The days of smearing cake icing
into your hair and having a sibling
help blow out some candles
are locked in photo albums,
in boxes forgotten
at the bottom of your mother’s closet.
The friends who gathered
the day you turned sixteen,
have missed every birthday since
despite your calls to them on theirs,
and you’ve never touched
the hands of their children.
The grandmother who called every year
before you were awake, just to sing
into your answering machine,
is gone, and the absence feels
heavy, like a bed sheet made of lead,
yet that week you will check the mailbox,
still expecting her card.