Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Happy first anniversary (in anticipation of your thirty ninth)" by Bob Hicok
More Information about the Poet: Bob Hicok
Past me wrote, "move to a different narrative," and even though this poem feels like a Best Man's speech, there is a move to a different narrative -- the singular to the plural and, perhaps, to the singular again. The single stanza forces the connections between everything with no breaks. However, the poem has a sense of speed due to the syntax and the language.
The first person perspective in the first introductory lines has a sense of humor behind them, "I don't have much time. I'm an important person / to chickadees and mourning doves, whose feeder / was smashed last night by a raccoon." Here the language is too real, as though to define importance by building something that was once destroyed -- and how to fix this, "Soon / I'll be wielding duct tape, noticing the dew, / wanting to bathe in it," So the speaker has to define his perspective as one that tries to fix things with simple methods and is a little brash (bathing in dew). But the speaker acknowledges this, "hoping the awkwardness / of yesterday (three instances with bear traps for mouths) never repeats itself / and we all go forward is if to party." Here, the speaker seems to depict the lesser of two surreal evils -- the somewhat bizarre with a purpose, or the bear trap mouths who chomp.
We don't have a choice but to go along with the speaker who notices the boy who cannot smash candy out of a burro:
It's too cute, the burro, too real
for him not to ask his mother, can I keep it,
and when the other children cry, they're given
lake front property
This is what the speaker sees in the boy -- a boy who wants to keep the image of something cute rather than get whats inside, and this is contrary to the kids who want and get too much, "This / is what I see for you" is the speaker referring to wanting more and getting too much, or the boy who wants to keep cute things that hold something more inside. It's probably the latter.
And what is for the boy -- the play on "s" words:
this isn't the SATs, don't think but stay
Stay happy, honest, stay as tall as you are
as long as you can using giraffes if you need to
see each other above the crowd.
Note that the "s" words add a sense of play to the poem, but the most important sound is the "t" which literally stops the sounds from getting to far where the speaker is asking the other to not stay still, not to be the kids who settle, but the ones who see above what the "crowd" wants. And then the focus on the personal:
when I realize I'm not breathing, my wife
is never why I'm not breathing and always why
I want to lick a human heart.
Kind of surreal and disturbing, but note how the speaker takes away the dream-like metaphor for something more disturbing as though this is the speakers true intent to "want."
This next part is important because this is the conceit to the rest of the poem.:
[...] remember that each of you
is half of why your bed will sag toward the middle
of being a boat and that you both will sag
if you're lucky together, be lucky together
"sag" is a verb that feels old. There's no youthful "sagging' (of pants perhaps, but not directly with this poem), but in comes the tone of the "best man giving speech" but with the context of the speaker looking at things in another perspective and noting the small, unique details in somewhat normal situations.
Sagging comes further as, "acquire in sagging more square footage / to kiss and to hold." A developed metaphor that reminds the speaker, "I hate you for being so much closer / than I am to where none of us ever get to go / again -" Yes, hate is a strong word, but not so much in this poem. It is the observations the speaker makes that has the power:
first look, first touch, first
inadvertent brush of breath or hair, first time
you turned over and looked who was surprising
you by how fully she was there.
As the title says, the first anniversary is not necessarily only based on marriage, it may also be knowing, for a while, when these things occurred and in what space. Sure the list is romantic and is grounded in what can actually happen, but is the last "first time" which I'm confused with, but also works with the parenthetical in the title.
The last line could be a development of something there or a loss as well, "how fully she was there." To me, this signals the reverence of both the first and last anniversary because something fully could form or disappear.