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Poem for My Twentieth Birthday

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Passing the American graveyard, for my birthday
the crosses stuttering, white on tropical green,
the years’ quick focus of faces I do not remember . . .

The palm trees stalking like deliberate giants
for my birthday, and all the hot adolescent memories
seen through a screen of water . . .

For my birthday thrust into the adult and actual:
expected to perform the action, not to ponder
the reality beyond the fact,
the man standing upright in the dream.


Kenneth Koch, “Poem for My Twentieth Birthday” from Poetry 67 (November 1945). Used by permission of the Estate of Kenneth Koch.
Source: The Poetry Anthology 1912-2002 (2002)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 1945 issue of Poetry magazine

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Poem for My Twentieth Birthday

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