Six birds fly through the blue sky.

These three birds, something common: phoebes,
maybe juncos, scissor back and forth against

the patch of sky strung between our two trees
by power lines, and it’s got me thinking

of high school geometry: isosceles, rhomboid,
parallelogram, the shapes they protract

on the cloudless afternoon. It’s Veteran’s Day,
and my cousin Amy’s birthday.

This day has passed so many times
right before our eyes. Eleven eleven

is a master number, and my daughter
doubled down on mastery when she arrived

at 11:22 p.m. the day after my mother’s birthday.
My mother had me when she was twenty-six,

and I was half that age when I did the math,
subtracted her wedding date from my birthday,

and came up short, but for an irrefutable proof
that I had been a mistake. I’m fifty-two, twice

the child she’d been the day they placed me
in her arms. The birds have doubled in number, too.

Six of them crisscrossing the sky like planes.
When I go back to my hometown, I’ll ask my cousin

if she got my mother’s card. She never forgets
a birthday, even if the acknowledgement comes

a few days late. She’s always late. I’m saying it wrong,
I know. But when I see the card, Maybe then

I’ll be able to say: Mom made the best cherry pies.
She remembered everyone’s birthday.

I’ll run a finger over her dark-inked lines.
Look: This was the last place she signed her name.


Photo by Oleksandr K, used and adapted under CC.