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O C T O B E R   1 9 6 5

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GIFTS

by Peter Davison



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(For help, see a note about the audio.)

Also by Peter Davison:
You (2000)
Best Friend (2000)
These Days (2000)
Falling Water (1998)
No Escape (1997)
On Mount Timpanagos, 1935 (1997)
Like No Other (1997)
"I Hardly Dream of Anyone Who Is Still Alive" (1995)
The Unfrocked Governess (1994)
The Passing of Thistle (1989)
The Obituary Writer (1974)
The Winner (1958)

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When I was a child, a heartstruck neighbor died
On her birthday. Dying was strange enough,
But what a way to choose to spend your birthday,
I thought, and what sort of a gift was this?
From time to time, people have done it since--
Dying in the environs of a celebration
As though they had picked out the day themselves.
Perhaps they had, one way or another,
Prayed for something to happen, and prayed wrong.
Sophocles, when old enough to die,
Suspected prayer and entered a caveat:
'Zeus, act kindly whether or not I pray;
And, though I plead for it, turn harm away.'
I keep a wary silence on my birthdays,
Make up no lists at Christmas, lie low
When asked what I really want. How should I know?
Best ask for gifts as though I had none coming.





Copyright © 1996 by Peter Davison. All rights reserved. As published in The Poems of Peter Davison (Knopf, 1995).
Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, October 1965.

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