Birthday Poems

Poems for milestone birthdays and those in-between.
Photograph of birthday candles spelling happy birthday

Tuck these poems into birthday cards or give yourself the gift of reflection.

  • Brad Leithauser

    Littlest digit, you’ve got the world by the handle.

  • Calef Brown

    Light bulbs on a birthday cake.
    What a difference that would make!

  • 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

  • Marjorie Knapp

    “What is this lovely world, and who am I?”

Teens and Twenties
  • Rachel Hadas

    Your liberation
    twelve years ago today is the occasion
    you and your friends are celebrating now
    behind a door that’s firmly shut.

  • Miller Williams

    you never should dally with any young man
    who does any one of the following things:

  • Kenneth Koch

    For my birthday thrust into the adult and actual:
    expected to perform the action, not to ponder

  • Amy Fleury

    I shimmy and slip by on pure fool chance.

  • Alice Notley

    May I never be afraid
                              especially of myself   

  • 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.”

  • Lucille Clifton

                me and you
    coming from the same place.

  • Jennifer Tonge

    My spring is gone

    and summer’s upon me,
    rude in its ripening.

Forties & Fifties
Growing Older
  • Billy Collins

                Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
    for today, the newspaper announced,
    was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios

  • Linda Pastan

    It’s the physics
    of acceleration I mind,
    the way time speeds up

  • Timothy Steele

    Here’s to the next year, to the best year yet;
    To mixed joys, to my harum-scarum prime;

  • 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.

For Parents
  • 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,

  • Li-Young Lee

    I did what a child does
    when he’s given something to keep.
    I kissed my father.

  • Julia Kasdorf

    I learned from my mother how to love
    the living

  • Robert Hayden

    What did I know, what did I know
    of love’s austere and lonely offices?

  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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,