I wanted to mark out the sacred ritual of family . . .
. . . though this celebration takes place on the first day of summer, it does not always have to be reinforced through a religious/spiritual guide. It’s the ritual and community of family that matters — and what gives the two boyfriends in this poem hope to carry on. I also wanted to represent a queer family structure, that of many children and many different identities.
Frank and Gavin
On June 21st, the first day of summer
My mom always has a BBQ
It’s really a birthday party, for all of us
Who were born into a golden afternoon
Just after the frailty of winter
But before the summer’s true heat incapacitates.
We recite toasts at tables
With long checkered table clothes
As dad flips five different types of burgers
— vegan, veggie, gluten free
All grade beef and free range–
with four different tongs
and all the younger children run around
and scream as they wait to sing
The Birthday Song.
My sister brings her girlfriend,
I bring my boyfriend
And the adults all pair off evenly.
For the kids, there’s a water fight
In the inflatable swimming pool
With red balloons and a sprinkler hose
And from the tin roof that we climb out onto
I explain to you my birthright.
Spring and summer have always felt very different
Since I was the only one born in the fall
I’ve always watched from the bottom, on scraped knees
My vantage point from between legs and toes
And I grew up thinking this was normal:
That all families get together every summer
Just to have birthdays and BBQs
That we all fight over a water hose
And not over mortgages
That this day will leave us all sunburned
But not alone or mute. We will all
Match by the end of the day.
We will all be together,
Through more than circumstance or DNA.
Though there are no candles for the cake
It does not matter. The wishes float.
They rise above, on the stem of dandelions
On the edges of eyelashes, and become:
A summer sunrise, a moonlight walk
An evening dressed in our finest hats and tailcoats.
But this is not a family reunion
since we never really left.
With your stunned silence, I realize
That old poet Auden was correct:
“Life remains a blessing,
Although you cannot bless.”
It takes until spring and summer
When the sun is out and the night is short
For people to understand how lucky they are
For people to understand that there is hope.
From the roof, we both look down
On the family tree that I’ve explained
Spiraling on the lawn like weeds and over us like roots.
There are few things that never change:
June 21st, the summer seasons
Our BBQs, and maybe, if I’m lucky, you.
her work has appeared in The Fieldstone Review, Arthur Newspaper, and Absynthe Magazine. She has an MA in Public Texts from Trent University and is currently pursuing her PhD. She lives in Canada.