Birthday

audioear pictureHear the author read this poem (in RealAudio)

When I was a boy, we called it punishment
to be locked up in a room. God's apparent
abdication from the affairs of the world
seemed unforgivable. This morning,
climbing five stories to my apartment,
I remember my father's angry voice
mixed up with anxiety & love. As always,
the possibility of home—at best an ideal—
remains illusory, so I read Plato, for whom love
has not been punctured. I sprawl on the carpet,
like a worm composting, understanding things
about which I have no empirical knowledge.
Though the door is locked, I am free.
Like an outdated map, my borders are changing.

Presented by

Henri Cole's latest book of poems is Middle Earth (2003), which received the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In