The sulfurous smell of snuffed candles
opens the door between one year
and the next, a present of days.

His family gathers crepe paper and cake
for him, pleased at living,
streams made glad at his river.
They laugh with mouths given by others,
their faces palimpsests that rub thin
the wall between him and his past.

The dead develop on the edge of his sight,
pale midst the ribbons and wrestling children.
When his mind hurries toward them,
each face dissolves into forgetfulness
leaving traces like jets
streaming across pure blue.

His family sings his age, their voices
bracketing a clean sheaf of days.
Today, the sun is a penny,
pink and bitter, too new to bear.
From the porch he watches
a dog roll in fresh-cut grass
with the unmistakable motions of joy.