A birthday poem

March 12 2017

You once asked me which version
of myself I’d most like to interview &
I laughed, thinking of myself sitting
next to myself on some park bench,
the hum of conflicting realities
in the background & us — me &
me — as strangers amid some slice
of leafy summer.

I asked for the rules of this fantasy,
but you shrugged & said who called it
a fantasy? I agreed & thought
past the windshield about configuring
the elements of my being to (re)create
the long brown hair that no one told me was
a mullet, or that night we sat on the dock,
the damp morning sprouting from the grass by the shore,
the pond water blacker than we’d ever seen.

But barring that, I’d meet myself in that park,
sun aloft in permanent late noon,
28-year-old me casually scouting
a seat next to 18-year-old me, asking,
what’d ya think of book x or movie y,
or about the heat of the summer,
or about whatever else you might ask
a stranger in a park.

Then, scene, & in shuffles 17-year-old me, or
22-year-old me, or 10-years-&-two-hundred-&-thirty-five-days-old
me, interviewed by 27-year-old me, or 22-&-one-quarter-year-old me,
& suddenly there are infinite parks, afternoon sun laboriously
aloft like some scene from the bible,
the murmur of background reality unaffected by
the endless shuffling of Eli-Vladimir & Eli-Estragon.

There is no park; there is only a park,
I think, as my 27-&-something-year-old hand
clutches the gear stick to propel us down forgettable highway,
the steeped silence of unfinished conversation
in the air. I glance at myself in the
rearview mirror & think of pop-pop at 87,
how that one day in the bathroom, as I held
his arm, he paused in front of the mirror,
said he’d seen little Allen Bildner, chubby &
clad in a short-brimmed baseball cap,
staring back, as astonished as he was
at the distance we must travel
from ourselves.

Eli Bildner
Palo Alto, CA

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