Birthday Poems

For Violet, On Your 14th Birthday

(From one Sparks fan to another)

When do I get to sing “happy birthday”?
When do I get to sing “and many more”?

In these times of angst, what thing SPARKS joy?
A senseless time, gratuitous, indiscreet.
A steady drip, drip, drip of propaganda
And plagiarism! And it seems that all
We do now is dick around, lost as a hippo
With a lawnmower, dreaming of cool places,
Hanging onto the calm before the storm.

When do I get to sing “happy birthday”?
When do I get to sing “and many more”?

With all our might, we sing in the shower
Music we can dance to, while our occupation
Rules our lives and we strive to beat the clock,
Beat the clock, beat the clock. But I predict
Things will change. I predict we will give it up.
No more amateur hour. Time for a wonder girl,
A girl with everything, to get into the swing
And live la dolce vita! Yes, time for a big surprise.

When do I get to sing “happy birthday”?
When do I get to sing “and many more”?

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your 13th Birthday

Time rolls itself awake; it yawns,
Then mutters underneath its breath:
“Amid this strange pandemic, life
Continues… And your teenage years
Officially are here.” We cheer
And throw a little party now,
As Time goes back asleep. Above
Our heads, across the sunny sky
Soft clouds float past us as if all
Were just a dream. The days feel like 
This too. “Some music!” someone says;
We, nodding in agreement, drop 
The needle on the record. Sounds
Come pouring out like milk
Into a bowl of cereal.  
The stereo is now alive
With Macca singing deep thoughts like
“The butter wouldn’t melt; so we put it in a pie.”
The clouds continue on, the days
As well. What fresh dreams now await
Us, fresh adventures just around
The corner, ready to surprise us next?  

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your 12th Birthday

The strangest days, the strangest times!
We’re wearing masks; the shops are closed;
And school is through the laptop now.
Decades in the future you’ll
Recall this all, and tell the tale
To folks too young to know.
I long for days to be a bit
Less memorable than now,
But in a way it’s fun to say
That you are in it, living through
A monumental moment, one
For every book that people write
About this year in coming years.

But don’t forget the sun still sets
On bad days like the good. The sun
Keeps rising, earth keeps spinning, spring
Keeps coming every year for us
No matter what. And spring means what?
Your birthday’s here again of course!
We love you, growing 12-year-old.

For a while at least, time is ours,
As it always should have been
(But we had somehow let it slip
Away to empty silliness:
To silly cars on silly streets
To silly jobs that never pay
Enough to justify the waste).
Yes, time is ours again. Let’s make
A more humane life now for us,
A life where we will sit beneath
The apple tree in our front yard
And watch the bees and butterflies
And wait for the noisy cats to tire
Of chasing birds and sit beside
Us there. We listen to the wind,
We listen to our breaths, we feel
Our heartbeat, soft. Our time is ours.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your 11th Birthday

As we both lean back against the cafe wall,
The cool, white wall that’s lined with subway tiles,
And a nice but flustered barista makes our drinks,
Imaginary beasts flow through our minds.
Soft beasts, rough beasts, large and small, they growl;
They coo; they flutter about; they rest on doors
And window sills; yet no one else can see
Their fanged, horned faces or their fuzzy wings.
The rain pelts hard against the large glass pane;
The outside world is washed away. We wait
For soaking clothes to dry. “Hot chocolate!” calls
The cashier girl. We smile to hold the cups
And warm our hands. The rain keeps falling. Sounds
Blur. Thoughts drift. Wings resume their fluttering;
Small critters crawl; and big ones bark and howl
Across the ceiling, hanging down. The air’s
Abuzz with them, but no one’s noticed. Zoos
Would give a fortune for this menagerie
Of the mind. We laugh. They are ours. And no one else
Can have them. Wild, alive. We set them free.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your 10th Birthday

Double digits! (Only 90 years till triple.)
So much change! This weekend alone even
Had swimming parties and sleep-overs.
What will we do in a year?
Who will you be in a year?
Who will you be in 10?

Thoughts dazzle round in my head.
Life can seem like a fugue by Bach,
The notes repeating but ascending
Building on each other in a spiral.

At times, you know, Johann thought his life
A waste; he could not see all the lives he touched
(A story we tell for Van Gogh and many others).
Let you always understand how much you matter
To me, and to all your family, my fascinating Violet.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your Ninth Birthday

Eight bells ring out eight times.
Then… a ninth rings nine,
Because it’s Violet’s day.
As nine dogs howl and bark,
Nine cats slink away into the dark
Here on Violet’s day.
Nine marching bands
March loudly across the land,
As nine apple blossoms
Wave in the wind above chrysanthemums
And underneath, snore nine sleeping possums
Who dream on Violet’s day.
And in our drizzly, rainbow town
I love to lean down
And give nine butterfly kisses
To the sweet little miss who is
The namesake of Violet’s day.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your Eighth Birthday

Seven turns to eight
And you demonstrate
Your deep infatuation
With creating lovely art.
A true appreciation
From your clever heart.
Throwing ceramics, writing poems,
Painting art for our walls at home.
You make every place your studio.
From tabletop or bunk bed
The world’s your portfolio
In your artist eyes, your artist head.
Eight turns around the sun
And you’ve only just begun.
Eight spins, my tiny jester,
Full of jokes, full of laughter.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your Seventh Birthday

Tonight it’s clear that I’m a lucky man.
Seven is my lucky number, yes,
For seven years you’ve made me smile and laugh,
For seven years you’ve made me proud as heck.
For seven is the age you’re turning now.
Astounding little smartypants, tough
As steel, and clever with all your jokes,
You talk to me in Japanese and teach
Me Minecraft tricks; you read me books and love
When I am reading books to you. You used
To say My Little Pony books were best,
But last weekend you said you have outgrown
Them. And I wonder what you’ll outgrow next,
As you change so fast before my eyes I can’t
Keep up. I woke one morning stunned to find
Your baby face had vanished; in its place,
A beautiful young woman. From the start,
Although you love to play with us and be
With us, you’ve been the family member who
Is fiercely independent, Lady March-
To-Her-Own-Drummer. How I cherish that!
And you should too; it’s far too rare these days.
Yes, you make new friends on every playground, like
A tiny politician; and yes, you love
To roughhouse, launching on your sister and
Me, shouting loudly “We are sandwiches!” Yet
You’re quite content to sing alone in bed
Or ponder hazy daydreams by yourself,
Miss Violet-Stands-Alone. Just know that as
The years fly past and as you grow and change,
And outgrow this or that, and keep on running
Down your independent paths, there is
One thing that doesn’t change, one thing on which
You can depend: your family’s here for you.
So here are seven hugs and seven big,
Sweet kisses, seven knock-knock jokes, and here
Are seven more of everything for you!

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your Sixth Birthday

Sweet Violet, you were born in spring, and now
At six you are a child of spring as well.
You love it when the rains come. Yes, you run
For your boots and splash to your heart’s content, laughing long
And loudly. You find joy amidst the mists;
You frolic in the fogs; you hail the hails.
You’re always throwing back your head to feel
Rain droplets on your smiling little face.
Your tongue juts out to taste it too, before
You sing, “I’m singing in the rain!” And kick
Like an Irish dancer, marveling at it all.
And next your destination is the yard.
Mud warrior, dirt princess, shoveler of mighty heaps,
You search with epic glee for worms and grubs
Like a 49er scavenged for clumps of gold.
There is no hesitation to get filthy,
Cramped, or soaked in your contented quest
For life within the soil. For the child
Of spring is as focused as a scientist
Can get, and you await your Nobel prize
In something that relates to joy in earth
And rain and laughter. Happy birthday, love.

Birthday Poems

For Violet, on Your Fifth Birthday

Four went out like a lion, breaking your arm
In the process, leaving me hoping for a year
Of lambs. I am so proud of how you coped
With all your pain and never lost your smile
Or sense of humor, you little cherub. I have
No doubt at all you handled every aspect
In a better way than I did, girl,
And I was merely watching. Now
Our whirlwind winter’s passed and springtime sun
Has settled over Portland. Birdsong fills
Our ears, and tulips bloom in every yard.
And you have left behind your “toddler years”
For good now; all that’s gone in a blink of our eyes,
A blink that calendars can somehow say
Was five long years, but felt like nothing more
Than seconds as you’ve laughed and played with us.
The toddler’s gone and left us with someone
Who’s tiny but sophisticated, wild
But wise, rambunctious, joyful. And to that
I say: this change is great; high five, little bird.