Birthday Poem for an
by Alicia Rabins

After our first terrible fight
I walked to the convenience store
to buy cigarettes
and when I came home
an hour later, to the
shitty kitchen of our
tiny shitty apartment which was
really yours, the table was
covered with
tea lights, a hundred tiny flames,
a tableful of candles.

I have forgotten what
the fight was about but
I have not forgotten what the
candles meant:
we will not survive
but we can go
with grace
leaving something

by Alicia Rabins

The nights were the worst
Right before she died
She would ring the bell from her bed and I would come downstairs with the
back half of my body in a dream.
My job was to turn her body over.
Instead I kept hurting her by accident. She would get
frustrated and tremble
Which was as close as she could come
to crying.
One night
as she lay, melted, on her side at 3 a.m.,
and I sat helplessly on the edge of the bed,
Christine motioned for her notebook.
I put the pen in her hand.
She wrote
in broad loose letters:
Why is this happening to me?
The letters looped against the light blue lines.
I put my hand on Christine’s wasted arm.
She was trembling
and I was crying
as the open notebook rested on the bed before us.
In this moment
which I am describing to you,
one of us is young, helping someone die
for the first time.
And one of us is dying.


Alicia Rabins is a Brooklyn-based poet born in 1977.  She has been
published in
The Boston Review, 6 x 6, and New York Nights; was
awarded Columbia’s Woodberry Poetry Prize and a Bucknell
Summer Fellowship; and has poems forthcoming in
Court Green
and in an anthology from NYU Press, both due out in Spring 2007.

On “Birthday Poem for an Ex-Boyfriend” and “Christine”:
I don’t have one writing “voice”; poems come out of me in various
modes, from the lyrical to the experimental.  These are two of the
most direct, accessible, and literally autobiographical poems I’ve
written in recent years.  I suppose my goal was to capture both the
internal and external reality of a scene as directly and economically
as possible:  an emotional photograph.  I’d like to dedicate each of
these poems to its subject.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 1, Number 2
(Fall 2006)

Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.