For a Friend on Her Birthday

after Billy Collins


Hold this poem to your ear,


And you’ll hear the sea.

But that’s not all.

I’ve put silences between the stanzas,

Just for you,

For when you need them.

Go ahead. Try them.

Nice, huh?

And here’s the best part:

You can come back to them

Anytime you want.

It occurs to me, writing this,

That I’ve yet to give you

Much to look at, Princesa,

Like trilobites and Groucho glasses,

Orchids, geishas, Peruvian pots,

Smoke signals, pagodas,

That I’ve totally forgotten to include

A plump yellow banana slug

The size of a mouse

On the mailbox,

In the rain,

At dawn.

But I have included in this next line

A plate of mango rice

And here: coffee from Colombia

Sweetened with coconut cream

And dulce de leche.

Too much? You might think so,

But taste it.

Because I’ve built it into a poem,

This cup will be like those

You’ve read about in myths and fables:

The most heroic of heavy drinking

Will not empty it.

I have this on the authority

Of Keats himself.

How cool is that?

It’s like love.

The more you give of it,

The more you have.

Art: Young woman, strolling, Lalibela, Ethiopia. Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (

Copyright 2019. Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved.

For more poems by Bob Shepherd (for for essays on the reading and writing of poetry), go here: