I chose today's poem because I was looking for a birthday poem; tomorrow is my daughter Emily's 27th birthday. I discovered most birthday poems are ruminations on death, which makes sense I guess. Still, I wanted something a bit more light-hearted than that. So who better to turn to than Jennifer Knox, who writes some of the funniest poems around. Many of them (most, even) aren't quite suitable for putting in my box where small neighbor children sometimes pick up poems (see my favorite "Hot Ass Poem"). But this one, "Willard, I Apologize" captures that tone a bit--the sarcastic, call-it-like-you-see-it speaker who wonders at the craziness of our species while recognizing her own shortcomings. (Another poem "Of the Flock" begins with the lines: 'God/help us./ We're just not that bright.")
So in this week's poem, the speaker suddenly realizes that laughing at the old folks Willard Scott always said happy birthday to on the Today Show was, in some sense, laughing at her own eventual old age and death. That realization (not necessarily sympathy for others) leads her to cry "like a baby," suggesting at the very least that the old are tougher than the young, proud to be 103 or whatever, while the young have the luxury of either laughing or sobbing about aging.
Happy Birthday, Em! I guess I didn't find a very cheerful poem for you. I considered "The Loveliest of Trees" by Houseman, "Morning Song" by Plath, and a hilarious one by Thomas Lux about daughters growing up, but it was a bit snarky. So go buy a Jennifer Knox book if you want to laugh and be surprised at just how down and dirty poetry can be. And sweetie, 27 is great. Enjoy it.
Willard, I Apologize
by Jennifer L. Knox
for laughing all these years
you’ve wished the centenarians
I was wrong.
I thought I’d never die.
But lately I can’t hear you
say the names (Bettina Swoop
from St. Paul, MN, turns 103 today—
what a pretty lady!)
without crying like a baby.
If you want to know more about Knox, her website is: