I wish wearing birthday hats was mandatory,
Like wearing seat belts when you drive.
I’d like a world where shiny pointy ridiculous cardboard cones
Could be spotted in traffic, at stores, at work . . .
Bringing the person beneath it into focus, letting us share their secret that today, on this very day,
They came into this world, wriggling and new like the rest of us,
And if they were lucky, loved.
We’d notice them, we’d see them, we’d recognize
A human being, with a mother, at least, and a father too,
Who had great, great grandparents who would have loved to have seen them
In their pointy party hat,
Who would have loved to have seen them . . . at all.
A human whose lineage stretches back past the Ice Age
and who once learned to walk on wobbly legs
And learned the word for butterfly.
A human who rubs sleep out of their eyes and catches their breath,
Whose stomach rumbles and whose heart beats fast,
Who is having a birthday in a life that is always short no matter if it lasts for two years
or a hundred and twelve
Because birthdays, like all days,
And that’s why we ought to notice.
The man in the car, the boy at the bus stop, the woman in line ahead of you.
The little girl holding her father’s hand, the man with a crooked back.
People with plans, socks, hair, heartbreak,
Kidneys, ticket stubs, and cousins.
People who have birthdays. And who, I think, should remind us.