Autumn Birthday

posted Jan 9, 2006

—with thanks to Dorothy Barresi for the final lines

At thirty-five a woman holds
the handle of a shovel like a staff. She knows
what to carry in her purse for an afternoon
or a whole day’s excursion. She is known
and, often, wants to be. She leaves
behind her as she walks
a hollow place in the air, gateway
to worlds in which she runs marathons, lives
barefoot by the sea, sells her heart
for a thousand jewels bedecking her skin like butterflies
or a boy’s too-pretty face.
This is the year
she recognizes age is a sword.
She shrugs.
It’s a big heaven.
Anything can happen.

Katherine Riegel’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Crazyhorse, Gettysburg Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and West Branch. She lives in Oswego, New York. Her rather elementary web site can be viewed at