poem to a lover on his birthday

by Sean Patrick Mulroy

There are no photographs of me
without my clothes; of you I have
just one. You’re wearing a towel
but you might as well not be.
I’ve shown the photograph
to several of my friends as proof
of your existence and my good fortune,
even though I promised it was just
for me. I’m sorry.

This is, incidentally,
the first reason why nobody will ever
get a picture of my naked body:
you never really know just who
will get ahold of it. I figure if
somebody wants to see
they have to come in person.

You live in South America now, and each
new shot of you that comes across my desk
is full of sunlight, palm trees, dry sand.

Today’s your birthday and I knew it
from the second I woke up but I don’t
imagine that by sending you my smiling face
you’ll suddenly stop being a junkie and start
being the kind of man I need to keep myself alive.

Still, it’s sweet to picture you, getting just
the right amount of drunk tonight and tumbling
with some flavor of the week into whatever bed
you’ve got now, whatever set of walls you’ve chosen
to tack up your brilliant drawings and your latest poems.

I’d send you some of mine,
but I’m naked in all of them.
You’re far away, and there will always be somebody else
on whom you can rely to wish you all the happiness
you don’t deserve.

Which is not to say that you’re a bad man;
you’re not. Only, happiness is something
that should come to those who fight for it.
You don’t fight. You flow. You drift. You pour
yourself in and out of people’s arms like water
and I’m trying to get dry.

Congratulations, you endure.
You’re still as beautiful today as you are
in your best photographs. Isn’t this
what every birthday calls to question?
What time undoubtedly will take from each of us?

That’s the other reason why I won’t allow
a camera in my bedroom: when I’m old,
it will be as if I’ve always been. I won’t
be held accountable to other versions
of myself that I could not maintain.
No over-exposed polaroids of me will fall
from half-remembered lover’s hands;
my half-remembered youth will vanish
when it’s over. Just like you did.

Sean Patrick MulroySean is the author of “The Pornography Diaries,” a poetic study of love and sex as seen through the lens of media study and film analysis. He also stars in a one-man show of the same name, combining original rock music and the poems from the book in a multimedia tour-de-force. Sean has performed his poetry in bars, literary festivals, concert venues, and universities in 10 countries and on 3 continents. He has participated in 13 national poetry competitions, written and recorded 4 albums of music, and sold over a thousand books of his poetry. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Neon, Ganymede, Side B, Union Station, Tandem, Frigg, Best Indie Literature of New England (BiLiNE), Capturing Fire: An Anthology, and Danse Macabre.

Sean currently resides in Western Massachusetts while working on multiple projects in music, literature and television media. His work most often brings him to New York City and Boston.

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