Poetry Month Day 3: Birthday Tribute

Today my niece would have been twenty-one.

Birthdays.

They’re weird when the person we wish to celebrate is instead memorialized, made tribute-to.

Grief is weird.

Today, I’m sharing the poem I wrote last year because I don’t think I can do much better – but I’m adding an encouraging post-script for those of you who make it to the end. Thanks for reading.


Birthdays
should be marked
by cake and ice cream,
Instagram posts and Facebook wishes
Or texts, the kind with hearts
And balloons
And silly memes

but
this time
next time
every time

I’d settle
for
anything
that fills the absence.

I draft and scribble out poems in my head:

a catalog of today’s distractions

our conversation in the sun today

the four times I cried
(frustration, grief, happiness, gratitude)

how I wonder if other people
get to talk to those
long-gone, or not-so-long-gone,
or if I am lucky
or just weird

how dumb it is to depend on words anyway –
the arrogance of insisting
life can always be willed
into poem.


Post-script: In Crossfit, there are often “tribute” workouts dedicated to the memory of those who have fallen, often armed service members or first responders. These workouts incorporate elements or dates from their lives. I thought it was fitting to craft a workout in Jess’s memory, and I put it together with the help of Jess’s younger brother.

I put a call out to my gym members letting them know I’d be doing her workout today. I expected one or two folks to show up and sweat alongside me, but I was floored that so many came out to show their support. Knowing that I could draw on their love and strength brought tears to my eyes.

And we’re still smiling afterwards. Whew!

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

4 thoughts on “Poetry Month Day 3: Birthday Tribute

  1. This photo – Jess is absolutely beautiful. I am captivated by crafting a workout in memory of someone (I remember your words from another recent post, “sweating in memory.”). It is also beautiful to see how many others came to work out with you in this physical tribute. The poem is incredibly moving – the marking of time, the loss always present, the weirdness of the birthdays without them. My heart is with you, my friend. I am not there to sweat alongside you (I am so not physical -!!) but I am here to read and write alongside you any time. A different kind of sweating, maybe – from the core of the spirit, the soul.

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