Friday, March 11, 2022

a brainy birthday

Today is the day that Facebook is made for, and look how it makes sure I don't miss it somehow! Poetry Friday friends, whatever it says about me, I now claim the truth that I like a little fuss about my birthday, so yup, let me post about celebrations, age and mortality.  And sheep's brain. 


It is important to remember that you will die,
lifting the fork with the sheep's brain
lovingly speared on it to the mouth: the little
piece smooth on the one side as a baby
mouse pickled in wine; on the other, blood-
plush and intestinal atop its bed of lentils.
The lentils were once picked over for stones
in the fields of India perhaps, the sun
shining into tractor blades slow moving
as the swimmer’s arms that pierce,
then rise, then pierce again the cold
water of this river outside your window called
The Heart or The Breast, even, but meaning
something more than this, beyond
the crudeness of flesh, though what
is crude about flesh anyway, watching yourself
every day lose another bit of luster?
It is wrong to say one kind of beauty
replaces another. Isn’t it your heart
along with its breast muscles that
has started to weaken; solace
isn’t possible for every loss, or why else
should we clutch, stroke, grasp, love
the little powers we once were born with?
Perhaps the worst thing in the world
would be to live forever.
Otherwise, what would be the point
of memory, without which
we would have nothing to hurt
or placate ourselves with later?
Look. It is only getting worse
from here on out. Thank God. Otherwise
the sun on this filthy river
could never be as boring or as poignant,
the sheep’s brain trembling on the fork
wouldn’t seem once stung
by the tang of grass, by the call
of some body distant and beloved to it
still singing through the milk. The fork
would be only a fork, and not the cool
heft of it between your fingers, the scratch
of lemon in the lentils, onions, parsley
slick with blood; food that,
even as you lift it to your mouth,
you never thought you’d eat. And do.
from Imaginary Vessels. Copyright © 2016

I could write a thousand birthday poems and none of them would feature sheep's brain, "food never thought you'd eat," and wouldn't. But isn't that the wonder of a well-constructed poem, a life of reading deeply? That we can find the part that applies, and then apply the part we can find that stretches sensation, emotion?  That we can begin to imagine a life in which we are named Paisley and eat lentils and sheep's brain beside a filthy river with gratitude for the tang of grass, the scratch of lemon?

The Poetry Foundation also gifted me today with this brief but full article about days full of poet birthdays.  Enjoy! 

We are rounded up today by dear Sylvia and Janet at Poetry for Children, where they are celebrating the publication of their newest Pomelo anthology, THINGS WE EAT.  I don't believe it contains sheep's brain. 😊


  1. Happy Birthday, Heidi! Enjoy every little bit of fuss (but no thanks on the sheep's brain!). xo

  2. I don't think you're losing your luster, Heidi. You share your birthday with Douglas Adams and Ezra Jack Keats -- what a cool trio you are! Hope you have a special day!

    1. I knew about Ezra Jack Keats and also Bobby McFerrin--but not Douglas Adams! Fun.

  3. Happy Birthday, Heidi!!! I admit I've never read a poem with sheep's brain in it before -- but I can share that my husband has actually eaten sheep's brains in Algeria. He said it looked like scrambled eggs, not much flavor though. This means that anything I cook tastes good in comparison. :D

  4. Happy Birthday, Heidi! Nothing says birthday like sheep's brain + poetry - thanks for sharing this treat of a poem. Enjoy YOUR day. :)

  5. "S is for Sheep's Brains" would have been a complete surprise, wouldn't it? Happy, happy birthday. I hope it was a good one. Thanks for sharing the birthday poems, and I hope you had lots of fuss made over you today.

  6. Wow! Does this poem pack a punch! It and you stretch me, which must be good for my interior growth. Yes, I can imagine doing that which I never could imagine, if pushed. I hope I am never pushed to try sheep brain though. (wimp)

  7. Happiest of Days to you, Heidi! I hope your day holds (held) everything you hold dear ...

  8. Hope your Birthday Celebration continues on Heidi, with good doses of poetry, and the Sheep's brain, well that's up to you… Thanks!

  9. Happy Sheep Brain-less Birthday! (That sentence could be made hilarious with a comma placed just here, or just there.) Hopefully, you get my drift, one way or another...

  10. Happy Birthday, Heidi. What an incredible post. Wow. That poem is so you! Not that sheep's brain was any connection for's just the complexity and layers and fun words and all the ways you also write. I hope I can write like this someday. You make birthdays good.

  11. How fun to celebrate your birthday together-- and with poetry! Hope it's been a wonderful weekend!

  12. Happy birthday, Heidi! Everyone deserves a little fuss over their birthday! Sheep's brain would definitely NOT be on the menu for my birthday celebration, but Rekdal's poem is full of images and questions that I can sink my teeth into. Thank you for sharing the article about poets' birthdays, too!

  13. That first line is a gut punch on a birthday. Reminds me of what we are suppose to contemplate on Ash Wednesday, remember you are but dust. Hmm! And that sheep's brain yikes!

  14. Belated birthday wishes! Make and take all the fuss, all the time. :)
    I'm with the majority who've never had and don't want sheep's brain but it sure made for a compelling read.

  15. What a terrific, quirky poem! I love how she admits some of the things we dread and fear about getting older. And that brain! What an image!

    Hope you had a wonderful birthday!

  16. Sorry, I missed wishing you happy birthday last week, Heidi. Eye surgery took its toll on me and life is in slow mode. Leave it to you to find a poem with a truly interesting first liner. This line from the article popped out at me: "inspiration for someone to pursue a life of composing language into “art-song,” a celebrated kind of influence." I hope you enjoyed your special day full of art-song and special celebrations.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!