Birthday Poems

For Olivia, on Your 14th Birthday

This year you are a world traveler. Up
And down the Pacific Rim you go. First stop:
Japan. (You stood below where Little Boy
Departed the Enola Gay to change the world
Forever in a flash.) With barely time
To catch your breath, you found yourself beside
The sloths in Costa Rican jungles. Where
To next? It’d be no lie to answer just
“My high school!” right? After all, it is
Its own chaotic jungle full of strange,
Exotic creatures speaking languages
That no one knows, and dressing on the edge
Of what we might call fashions. Oh, the joys!
The sighs! The pains! The challenges! The hopes!
The changes! Every day, they wash across
You, waves of changes, oceans really now.
Embrace the weirdness — mohawks, miniskirts, sports,
And that thing, oh what’s it called? Homework, yeah.
For even on the longest days, when you
Can count the endless times a dust speck floats
Down, up, and back across a ray of light
In a Friday morning study hall, please know
So very, very soon it all shall pass
(And yes, you’ll pass your courses, do not fret),
And college waits with new and wilder lands
With jungles all their own for you to roam.


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