Tuck these poems into birthday cards or give yourself the gift of reflection.
“First Birthday” by Brad Leithauser
Littlest digit, you’ve got the world by the handle.
“Birthday Lights” by Calef Brown
Light bulbs on a birthday cake.
What a difference that would make!
“The Book of Failed Descriptions” by Tod Marshall
A birthday party and he’ll have nothing to do with the inflatable castles rented and set up on the lawn, only wants to run all afternoon,
“Tenth Birthday” by Marjorie Knapp
“What is this lovely world, and who am I?”
Teens and Twenties
“Twelfth Birthday” by Rachel Hadas
twelve years ago today is the occasion
you and your friends are celebrating now
behind a door that’s firmly shut.
“For a Girl I Know About to Be a Woman” by Miller Williams
you never should dally with any young man
who does any one of the following things:
“Poem for My Twentieth Birthday” by Kenneth Koch
For my birthday thrust into the adult and actual:
expected to perform the action, not to ponder
“At Twenty-Eight” by Amy Fleury
I shimmy and slip by on pure fool chance.
“30th Birthday” by Alice Notley
May I never be afraid
especially of myself
“Writ on the Eve of My 32nd Birthday” by Gregory Corso
I don’t act silly any more.
And because of it I have to hear from so-called friends:
“You’ve changed. You used to be so crazy so great.”
“Birthday Poem” by Al Young
How I got from then to now
is the mystery that could fill a whole library
much less an arbitrary stanza
“sisters” by Lucille Clifton
me and you
coming from the same place.
“Self-Portrait at 38” by Jennifer Tonge
My spring is gone
and summer’s upon me,
rude in its ripening.
Forties & Fifties
“On My Fortieth Birthday” by Paul Goodman
Feeling no-age (not yet ageless like
the sky)—I have been lived by a starving youth
“Millennium, Six Songs” by Marilyn Chin
The same stars come around and around and around
The same sun pecks her heat at the horizon
“Menstruation at Forty” by Anne Sexton
I feel the November
of the body as well as of the calendar.
“44th Birthday Evening, At Harris’s” by Ted Berrigan
44 years I’ve loved these dreams today.
“After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa” by Robert Hass
From now on,
It’s all clear profit,
“Cheerios” by Billy Collins
Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
“Counting Backwards” by Linda Pastan
It’s the physics
of acceleration I mind,
the way time speeds up
“On the Eve of a Birthday” by Timothy Steele
Here’s to the next year, to the best year yet;
To mixed joys, to my harum-scarum prime;
“Passing Through” by Stanley Kunitz
it’s time for me to practice
growing old. The way I look
at it, I’m passing through a phase:
gradually I’m changing to a word.
“I Wish I Want I Need” by Gail Mazur
Yesterday I drove my little mother for hours
through wet snow. Her eightieth birthday.
What she wanted was that ride with me—
shopping, gossiping, mulling old grievances,
“The Gift” by Li-Young Lee
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
“Black Hose” by Bruce Weigl
basking in the light
and love that would fall down on me when I
handed her the box and she untied the bow to save
Parties & Presents
“Family Stories” by Dorianne Laux
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window.
“The Party” by Jason Shinder
That’s it; that’s how it is; everyone standing around as if just out of the pool,
drying off, standing around, that’s it, standing, talking,