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Thirty-Five

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BIRTHDAY
Happy Birthday, James Franco. | Alamy

It's my 35th birthday, not that anyone should care. I'll spend the day acting in a film with my friend Jonah Hill (I play a sociopathic murderer). I remember learning about sociopaths in my high school sociology class taught by the great Mr. Roland. He could do more pull-ups than any student; he'd challenge them to contests on the head frame of his door. He also took us on a field trip to a working prison; pretty amazing. I remember a man's face cropped by the small window in his door staring at us intently, shaking slightly as he was masturbating.

If I look back that far, I can see that I have actually grown; I still wouldn't be able to beat Mr. Roland at pull ups, but I have a profession now -- albeit an odd one, I get paid to pretend to be a person like those people with no empathy for others, or at least in this film I do. It's nice to know that if you're open, life does change and get better.

Here's a poem I wrote on my 31st birthday. I have done a few things in the past four years, but this poem still captures how I feel on my birthday.

31

It was birthday thirty-one

I was in Suffolk, Virginia, directing

A short film called Herbert White.


We stayed at the Hilton Gardens,

The only hotel in town,

The rest are motels, rented monthly.


There are no restaurants, but plenty of strip malls,

Prefabricated houses and little swamps;

People sit in their cars in gas-station lots


And eat and smoke.

This is eating out in Suffolk.

The actor that fucks a goat in my film


Was home-schooled because his parents didn't

Want him to be subjected to drugs, guns and violence.

"And blacks," I think.


Indian River, the school is called.

Tyrone is his name, a handsome, dumb-faced kid.

There were baby goats; they ran around their pen on stiff, stumpy legs.


*


I've had good and bad birthdays.

And boy do they make me think

About when I was younger,


When I had no friends and my mom drove me to school

Because I lost my license drunk-driving, and we wouldn't talk,

We would listen to Blonde on Blonde


Every morning, and life was like moving through something

Thick and gray that had no purpose.

And now I see that everything has had as much purpose


As I give it, or at least it can all make its way

Into my poem and become something else,

And in that way all that shit, and all those bad birthdays,



And the good ones are markers in an anniversary line -

And they carry less and less of their original pain,

And become emptier, just markers really, building blocks,


To be turned into constructions and fucked with.

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