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An old mortality, These evening doorways into rooms, 
this door from the kitchen and there’s the yard 
the grass not cut and filled with sweetness 
and in the thorn the summer wounding the sun. 
And locked in the shade the dove calling down. 
The glare’s a little blinding still but only 
for the moment of surprise, like suddenly 
coming into a hall with a window at the end, 
the light stacked up like scaffolding. I am
that boy again my father told not to look 
at the ground so much looking at the ground. 
I am the animal touched on the forehead, charmed. 
In the sky the silver maple like rain in a cloud 
we’ve tied: and I see myself walking from what looks like 
a classroom, the floor waxed white, into my father’s 
arms, who lifts me, like a discovery, out of this life.

—Stanley Plumly

from Boy on the Step by Stanley Plumly, 1989
HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY

Copyright 1989 by Stanley Plumly.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted “Birthday” by Stanley Plumly from Boy on the Step. Copyright © 1989 HarperCollins Publishers, with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Poet Stanley Plumly (1939- ) was born in Barnesville, Ohio, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including his collection Old Heart (2009) which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Learn more about Stanley Plumly at The Poetry Foundation.