“Your presence is the only Gift”
My friend is fifty,
And there’s to be a party.
The invitation says No gifts
Beyond the gift of your presence,
A gift is called for, surely,
And I would like to disregard
Even so well-meant a restriction,
Knowing that Fifty is no small occasion
And ought to be marked by something—
But the invitation says No gifts.
When I became fifty,
I began to know what others knew before me.
Faintly began to understand
What was important,
What was triviality;
Began to feel the clutter of obligation,
The need to simplify;
The burden of having, wanting,
Needing more than was needed;
The weary task of seeming grateful
For things unasked-for, unwanted—
Grateful, yes, for the loving thought,
The kind motive—
But things enough I had, and have; what little I want,
I can provide myself—would rather, in fact.
The pleasure is in the choosing.
Now what I most want is that which I most lack:
World enough and time, as the poet said.
Does she feel this too, at fifty?
The invitation says, No gifts—
But even if I possessed the power of Everything,
What could I give
That would be worth the giving
To such a friend?
She who showed that Life is a labyrinth to be walked
With mindfulness—with reverence, too—
With joy, and generosity,
And courage, and humor—
With gratitude, and inner light.
She who knows, none better, that Life
Is robust but fragile,
A gift on loan
To be used and not husbanded.
She who once mirrored me to myself,
Showing me a self I had not perceived—
A self capable of more, much more
Than I dreamed or thought possible.
She knows how to give—
But she has an unfair advantage,
Being, in herself, a gift.
So my friend is fifty,
And there’s to be a party,
And the invitation says No gifts—
But I’ll not come empty-handed;
Will give her the gift she gave to me:
Will mirror herself to herself, as best I can,
And say with love, as from friend to friend,
Such you were to me, such you are,
Such you will remain.