On Your Sixty First Birthday Eve

Briar, teaching Boo Radley how to solve a dog treat puzzle – December 2021

Billy Collins, well-loved poet and two-term US Poet Laureate, wrote his poem Fiftieth Birthday Eve, looking at the big 5-0 staring him down from a March midnight years ago.  I’ve linked two of his original poems at the bottom of today’s blog post.  Today, here is a Collins-inspired poem to celebrate Briar’s birthday tomorrow, with an equally enthusiastic nod to pine trees and whales and empty suitcases and dog treat puzzles – and a world of other extraordinary things.

On Your Sixty-First Birthday Eve

61. The figure alone flashes a stick-figure photo of us,

me with the tens-digit rounded bottom,

you standing tall in the thin, skinny ones

I want to daydream here on the Johnson Funny Farm,

of traveling to Europe, to Ireland’s green shores

a place of peaceful solitude, a respite from the world

But I keep picturing 61, seeing us contentedly-rooted

on this rural Georgia pine tree farm, evergreen-forest-moored

our place of peaceful solitude, our respite from the world

I try contemplating the sufferings of our luggage,

longing for more purpose behind the attic door,

lips zipped too tight to yell down their resfeber

But even an adventure to the world’s great places

touted as culture or well-traveled landmarks,

cannot diminish the worlds of wonder here, as

61, standing at the threshold

with a suitcase to home –

our toothbrushes, our worn-soled shoes,

our farm plat a traveler’s vast world map

By evening we’ll rest our feet by our fire

drink coffee, eat leftover brick slices of fruitcake

warmed in a moistened paper towel

in the microwave

thinking nothing particularly notable of the

authentic rural life we live

the most well-traveled journeymen will never know.

And this day, as every day, we set out

with smaller suitcases – daybags, backpacks,

handbags, totes

grocery bags with local foods, souvenirs of home

the most well-traveled journeymen will never see.

It follows tradition – this marked trip around the sun,

the cake and ice cream with candles aflame

the gift with a wrapping, tied with a string

The rest is up to us – to see the wonder in our ordinary –

to celebrate the Whale Days as we do Pine Tree Days and

Empty Suitcase Days and Dog Treat Puzzle Days

ever as ceremoniously as we do birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Briar!

You can read Billy Collins’ Fiftieth Birthday Eve here:


You can read Billy Collins’ Whale Day here (or listen):




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