On Your Birthday by Abby E. Murray

On Your Birthday

When it isn’t a milestone
but some odd number
between multiples of ten,
when it falls on a Tuesday
and you celebrate by eating
yogurt alone at the sink
or cooking for those
who ought to feed you,
when it disguises itself
as any cold, damp day
and arrives like junk mail,
unconcerned with
the hundreds of thousands
of hours you’ve survived
on a temperamental planet
with a temperamental species,
when the anniversary of you
looks nothing like a gift
and brings you only
the absence of wonder,
find the nearest bit of light
in the room. Any scrap
will do, that sliver pressed
beneath the bathroom door,
maybe, or the quarter-sized
warmth in the palm of your hand
when you stand just so
at the kitchen window at noon—
it needn’t be bright or even
visible to seem impossible,
waves of energy through
nothingness, since nothingness
itself is a kind of space reserved
for brilliance. All this tiny shine,
the light you can reach
right now, is for you, from me,
because I say so. Take it.
What better way to accept a gift
than with empty hands?
Doesn’t it seem to blush
deeper when you know it is yours?
On your almost forgotten birthday,
I claim all that glows or flares
right here for you. It’s outrageous,
I know, but who’s to stop me?
Let’s get drunk on rights
no one suspected we’d claim.
Who will tell you a streetlamp’s gleam
on the hood of a neighbor’s Honda
can’t be yours? Nobody. So it is.
Enjoy it, secretly if you want,
and notice you’ve been noticed,
know somebody loves you
the way daylight loves
a windowpane, consistently,
the way a yellow lamp loves
an otherwise darkened room.


Abby E. Murray is the editor of Collateral, a literary journal concerned with the impact of violent conflict and military service beyond the combat zone. She teaches rhetoric in military strategy to Army War College fellows at the University of Washington. After serving as poet laureate for the city of Tacoma, Washington, she recently (and temporarily) relocated to Washington DC.

Two Poems by Emily Lake Hansen

Change of Address

It was raining the night I left the base,
my belongings shoved in the back
of a green pick-up, everything wet.
At 16, I hadn’t thought of a tarp.
I put trash bags full of clothes on top
of the mattress, blocked the stereo buttons
with a pillow so they might still work
when I got to my mom’s across town.

When the truck pulled away from the house,
the headlights cutting diamonds onto the road,
I looked back thinking I might see my father,
but that night he never left his room. And after
that night, I never came back. The house

might as well have been empty.


The Last Birthday Party

Six days after the towers fell,
fifteen candles on a box strawberry cake

at my boyfriend’s house because no guests —
none at all — were allowed that week on base.

We hadn’t been careful enough
to let the cake cool. At least it wasn’t

her sweet sixteen, my boyfriend’s mother said,
the pink frosting a mess on her plate.


Emily Lake Hansen (she/her) is the author of Home and Other Duty Stations (Kelsay Books) and the chapbook The Way the Body Had to Travel (dancing girl press). Her poetry has appeared in 32 Poems, Hobart, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Atticus Review, and the Shore among others. The recipient of the 2022 Longleaf Poetry Fellowship, she lives in Atlanta where she is a PhD student at Georgia State University and an instructor of English at Agnes Scott College.

birthday by Eva Eliav


I’ve arrived at an age
when birthdays are
kept hidden

the way a woman I once knew
hid her failed fallen cakes
under the bed

nibbling from them
at night
in shame and silence

I celebrated
just the same

beside a lake
that would vanish
in the summer

drunk by a greedy sun

both the lake and I know
our days are numbered

but today dogs race
through the water
yelping with joy


Eva Eliav received an honours BA in English Language and Literature from The University of Toronto. The child of holocaust survivors, she grew up in Canada and now lives in Israel. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous journals, online and in print. She has published two poetry chapbooks: Eve (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2019) and One Summer Day (Kelsay Books, 2021).