The Life of a Birthday

Well, it only comes once a year, but today being my birthday, I’m going to make the most of it!

I was completely stymied by the Big Tent Poetry prompt at first. It asked us to identify something we admire from our favorite poem, and use this to write one of our own. The problem was this– how to select just one favorite, from all the poems I know and love. I thought of nursery rhymes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rachel Field, Hilaire Belloc, John Ciardi, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Mary Oliver, Lisel Mueller, Judith Viorst… well the list goes on and on. It would be like asking me to pick my favorite child! But then I decided, I only had to pick a favorite poem (or two).

I based mine on two poems in fact:

The Life of a Day, by Tom Hennen

and When I Am Asked, by Lisel Mueller

(Both poems are reprinted inย  “Good Poems” by Garrison Keillor, and aired on The Writer’s Almanac.)

I combined the form of prose poetry with the examination of a day. Hennen writes about the meaning of a typical day, while Lisel Mueller goes back to the day her mother died to explain why she writes poetry. Add birthday to it, and I came up with this:

The Life of a Birthday

It dawns like any other day and why shouldn’t it. But still
it surprises me that the morning sky is a pale gray, almost
white, not oh, say magenta or chartreuse or tangerine
or something more festive. I listen to the click of the sprinklers
as they come on, one by one, and the neighbor’s dog
barking at regular intervals in his territorial way. The cool
morning breeze seeps in through my open window,bringing
with it just the merest hint of fall even though it is only
mid-summer, and I snuggle deeper under my covers. It is,
in fact, a day like any other of the thousands of days I have
lived, no more, no less. Looking out over the leafy branches
of the maple so near to my window that they almost brush it,
you’d never know that this day had special significance for me.

Read more poems written to this prompt at Big Tent Poetry.

14 thoughts on “The Life of a Birthday

  1. Happy Birthday! Pity that you weren’t treated to a technicolor morning but hopefully, the bliss of snuggling deeper helped compensate. You were obviously paying greater attention that I would be!

  2. I liked that you found inspiration in both poetry and prose. Although poetry will ever be my first love, prose is a very close better than just second. And I like the way you worked worked the two things together. Especially like your close attention to the details of sense imagery.


    • Elizabeth– nice that you also enjoy poetry and prose. I got into poetry through the “back door”– I started reading prose poetry, then writing it, then just writing poetry, period.

    • Thanks Carolee– I hope you had a good birthday too! Sometimes it’s hard to remember that a birthday is just another day, and not to put too many expectations on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Firstly, happy b’day! And, secondly, I loved this poem…it’s so true isn’t it…this fuss about birthdays. I mean, of course, it’s a special day, but it’s also just another regular day. very well written, but remember though to enjoy each day because it’s easy to grow old, but takes longer to feel young ๐Ÿ˜‰ and, in appreciation of your work, here is a little something, and, i’d love it if you accept it

    • Thank you Amrita! I appreciate the honor. I will check it out when things settle down a bit. Between birthday and summer crazies, it’s hard to find time to write these days. ๐Ÿ™‚

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