Birthday Poems

For Olivia, on Your 16th Birthday

Here’s a year when all went upside down,
A nutty, silly year, the dumbest year.
And look, we’re all agoraphobic now,
Anthropophobic even, strange to say;
Behavior that’s against the very core
Of things in our humanity: “Wear masks…
No touching… Stay six feet apart or more…”
And yet. And yet this year there is at times
Great beauty — as there often is in life —
Of calm, of stillness, set apart from all
The crises of the daily news alerts
That yell at us (when we will let them). Time
Together, time alone, to stop and think,
A chance to breathe deep breaths, a chance to hold
Our breaths, a chance to hold each other too,
And to reset our lives. We should have done
This years ago (and should do so again).
It took the earth to do it for us first,
Which just is how things go sometimes, a push
From where you least expect, but when you need
It most. And — boom — a time to start afresh.

Reminds me of when you were two; we spent
A year together, you and I, a year
Of peace, and laughs, and tears, and diapers. Yes,
There were a lot of diapers. (Plus, there was
A little freelance work from home like now
As well.) And if we let them, years like these
Can teach us wondrous lessons on the ways
To listen, really listen, to the purrs
Of cats all stretched across your lap or chest,
To listen to your own deliberate steps
And hear the sound of gravel underneath
Your feet along our walkway, and those breaths
You take as you read in Northwest sunlight here
By our front door in your great-grandma’s chair,
And the soft and wild breezes that can lift
And carry neighbors’ voices to us. May’s
Last days will lead to summer soon. The earth
Spins on. The clouds float on. The trees like years
Reach up and out to higher things than us.
And look! The birds all spin and dance in air
In dawn and dusk. Their message, if you want
To hear, is things that can go upside down,
My dear, can also go up-right again.


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