Birthday Poems

For Olivia, on Your 11th Birthday

There’s nothing better than the human heart.
The driving, rolling passions moving us
To write a poem, to sing, to reach the moon,
To move a mountain (or at least to pull
A steamship over one like in a film
I love so much called Fitzcarraldo). We dance.
We laugh. We bend and break. Collapse. Endure.
A man without a heart’s a mannequin.
There’s pain in life; embrace it, yes. There’s joy
Beyond joy, if you let it, if you dare
To open up your heart and feel the flames
That glow inside. A little sun within
Us. Yes, it burns you sometimes, but it gives
You warmth. A life in ice is not a life
At all. Be warm instead and melt the ice
And wax. Be human, in all our dazzling downs
And ups and shimmerings in between. You’ll hear
Folks telling you to stifle it, to push
It down, repress it all. They’re wrong. They’ll say:
“She is 11 now, almost a teen,
Almost a drama bomb, almost a wild,
Annoying, sassy monster.” But again,
They’re wrong. I say that finally your life
Is starting; finally the craziness,
The swerving rollercoaster-bumper cars
Of happiness, confusion, anguish, angst,
This cornucopia called grown-up life
Is starting. And it can’t be stopped. Embrace
It. Laugh. Cry. Dance. Scream. Climb a mountain. Reach
Your fingers up and scratch at the moon. You’re alive.
You’re loved. You are 11. You’re alive.


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