Birthday Poems

For Olivia, on Your 17th Birthday

The other night we watched some silly films,
If you recall.  Quite silly, but they have
Been staying on our minds these past few days… 
So, if The Fast & The Furious have taught
Us anything, it is not merely that
The cast was less than stellar in the field
Of acting (though we’d not deny their charms),
But also — and, hey, this is the thing 
To actually pay attention to here, right? —
It’s that the bonds we have with friends as well
As those of family are holding us
Together as a species, the mortar, strong,
Unbreakably strong when we want, that holds
Us up high, brick by brick, like a fortress wall 
Against outsiders who would tear us down, 
And like a sea wall holding back a storm
That crashes mighty waves against us
And would have washed us each away, 
And tossed us one by one into the depths,
But we are not alone; together we
All hold each other fast, our friends, our group,
Our kin, our blood, our heart. There always will
Be forces furious to pull us all 
Apart, and when we look at them we find
That often they are simply us ourselves
A bit confused about humanity
And wanting just to see us put in tribes,
Divided into silly this or that, 
Because of how we say the names of God
Or how our hair, complexions, eyes, or what 
Compare to someone else’s. We are strong
Together, stronger than the storm can be 
No matter how it scares us, stronger still
Than doubt. And let me tell you, when the clouds
Are breaking and the sun shines down, you look
Around at all those who were with you through
That mess, and then you’ll feel true victory 
As good as anything you’ll ever feel,
Like you’re Vin Diesel rushing past the cop
Who soon becomes his brother, or the Rock
When a torpedo needs a righteous shove
Away from pals, or Lucas Black alone
But in his father’s car and drifting through 
The night in shiny Tokyo to stop 
The mafia. High five, brah. You won.
And that triumphant feeling can’t be beat.
Embrace it! Yes, embrace togetherness,
Furiously, fastly, and without irony.


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