Ninth Birthday

They sit near her.
Oh, to be near the one
who receives gifts.

Michella says, I’m wearing
my Christmas dress.
Patrice says, I’m wearing
the dress my mother made
for me. It’s gingham.

Susan sits at her feet
to hand the presents up.
Hands and legs slow down,
each one holds a box,
passes it over. She unwraps.

Ohh ahh hands pause,
to let in their sounds of heaven.

I want those. Patrice grabs
hot-pink ribbons from Chloe’s
box of wrapped flowers.
Chloe says, My mother
wants them back.

That’s when the ripping begins.
Where there was pink unfolding,
now shreds of green box and tissue
paper until those closest

to the nearly distressed birthday girl
press hands over their dresses.
That isn’t very nice. Legs cross,
hands fold, Patrice stuffs
her wrappings under her
homemade skirt.

About the Author

Donna Emerson writes poetry and prose. She recently retired from college teaching and her practice as a licensed clinical social worker.

Some of her publications include Alembic, CQ (California Quarterly), CALYX, The Chaffin, Courtship of Winds, Denver Quarterly, Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Fourth River, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, The Los Angeles Review, LUX, Naugatuck River Review, New Ohio Review, Paterson Literary Review, The Paragon Journal, Passager, Persimmon Tree, Praxis: Gender & Cultural Critiques (formerly Phoebe), Quiddity, Sanskrit, Slipstream, Soundings East, So To Speak, The South Carolina Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Spillway, Spry, Stone Canoe, Tower Journal, and Weber—The Contemporary West.

Her work has received numerous prizes and awards including being selected as a finalist in the 2016 Trio House First-Book Awards and the 24th Annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction and Essay Contest, Editor’s Choice in the 2017 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and honorable mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize (2013), and Best of the Net (2012). Her second chapbook, Body Rhymes (2009), nominated for a California Book Award, and third and fourth chapbooks, Wild Mercy (2011) and Following Hay (2013), have been published by Finishing Line Press. Her work can also be seen in anthologies such as Echoes (2012), Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing (Passager Press), Chopin with Cherries, A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press), Music In The Air (Outrider Press), and The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers).

Her first full-length poetry collection, The Place of Our Meeting, was published by Finishing Line Press in January 2018 and nominated for the California Book Award.