Green Hills Literary Lantern



A Birthday

Picture a man in a shower.  Don’t worry—
by the end you will know more about him
than his bare skin.  For example, how his wife
takes her coffee.  What kind of work he does.
He is not a tall man, but he is strong—muscles 
roped along his shoulders and thighs.    
He lifts his head, lets the falling water beat his face.
His hair is turning gray, just a little, at the temples.
When he leaves for work, his wife is often asleep.  
As he is the dog of their marriage, she is the cat—
she likes warm quilts and sleeping in.  She likes
strong coffee, which she brews in a French press 
every morning and drinks with an inch of cream.  
All day he works outside, up and down a ladder,
hammering, hauling shingles, telling men 
what to do, while his wife turns the pages 
of magazines, walks down the hall to the closed door
at the end.  You want to look inside, don't you? 
There’s nothing interesting to see.  Nobody’s ever slept here, 
child or guest.  These could be the people on your street 
that no one knows.  The guy who drives the truck.  
The slightly heavy woman who wears her slippers
to the mailbox.  You smile; she smiles back.
The old lady whose house is getting a new roof 
is drinking.  She tilts through the front door 
to yell about the noise.  But back to the beginning—
the shower.  Plenty of hot water.  Lavender soap.  
Were you thinking it was morning?  No.  
This man’s day is ending.  His birthday.  
I should have made a cake for you, his wife says, pleased
with the flowery scent of his neck.  He doesn’t care 
about cake.  He's tired.  He just wants to sit 
for a minute, quietly considering the small gift 
of her hand approaching his knee.


Pat Daneman writes poetry and short fiction.  She has published or has work forthcoming in The Cortland Review, Freshwater Poetry, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Blood Orange Review, RE:AL, Inkwell and other magazines.   She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Binghamton (NY) University and works as a creative director in Kansas City.