February 13 — After James Schuyler Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, my birthday. But those are tomorrow’s complications. I am not so jaded by the magic of snow, the tiniest flakes that swirl before spiraling to the ground. The sky a stretched-out cheesecloth pulled taut over quiet houses. Still winter. Walkways puddled with icy water from yesterday’s melt. Is happiness a skill? The dog sleeps curled like a croissant on the couch. Her soft gaze, how her tail wags when I simply approach. Both of us expect less from the other and call it gratitude. I mark the passage of time in low light.
Be Mine We valentined our way through February and at the center pulsed my holiday birthday: red hearts, red cake, red letters everywhere, a love-massacre with red balloons hovering under our low vaulted ceilings. Don’t buy red roses on Valentine’s Day I told my ex-husband. They’re hothouse and overpriced. What about a nice houseplant? Maybe a pothos—Devil’s ivy—leaves splay wide like open palms. They’re hard to kill. And skip the candy boxes, with their heart- shape and all their cream-filled randomness. For many years, I have been my own valentine— treated myself like a special occasion, I’d buy my own candy and flowers, accept the handmade cards of my children scrawled in crayon and called it enough. This morning I hear the snowplow’s scrape. Soon I will join my neighbors clearing the driveway and sidewalk, lifting my back to the industry of snow. I am grounded to love—feeling it, being in it, even as I windmill the shovel above my head, letting the crystals fall into my face.
From the Author: For the last few years, I have written February poems, specifically birthday poems. With a name like January and a birthday on February 14, there’s ample material to write about. It’s usually cold and snowy in New England, but I’m trying to create loose connections between poems and images—always leaning toward surprise and wonder.
January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University and the author of Glitter Road (February 2024), Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cave Canem, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil was the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. She currently serves as the 2022-2024 board chair of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).