Seeing Her on Her Birthday by Jessica Van de Kemp

It’s like using a stereoscopic toy. I load all of the other days of my life and click through until I reach this day. She’s in her forties, this woman who isn’t my mother. She talked me out of changing my name when I was nineteen.

Every year, on this day, I call her. Today, I see her first. She’s in the parking lot of the local shopping mart, driving a car I’ve never seen. It’s the first day of spring. Up over her shoulders comes the white sun.

It shuts me down like acupuncture. Imagine if birdsong came over the radio. I hold like birdseed the key in the ignition. She’s carrying tulips in brown paper. I can’t hear what she’s saying to an elderly stranger, but I know it’s about the weather.

How good it’s been. My little bird beneath snow. Am I recognizable? No. She looks at the world through a kaleidoscope and I’m a spare pastel. She’s old enough to be my mother, this woman who shields her eyes from sunlight as I drive past.

Jessica Van de Kemp is the author of Spirit Light (The Steel Chisel, 2015). Her poem, Slant of the Girl, was shortlisted for the 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize. The recipient of a BlackBerry Graduate Scholarship in English Language and Literature, Jessica is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Waterloo. Website: | Twitter: @jess_vdk