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Graduation. It’s such a bittersweet time, in the truest sense. There were many poemable moments today, including my youngest daughter’s description of her dream upon waking from naptime: “I ride on the back of a tough bird, and it carries me through the desert”, and my eldest’s observation: “this new Barbie has bendable wrists, but still can’t move her thumbs”. Each sentiment deserves its own poem, but given that today I got to see a truly impressive group of people graduate, I’ve got eighteen on the brain. I barely remember eighteen. I remember being scared, and pretending a lot. I hope that is what most of you remember too.

Tonight I’ve decided to write another graduation poem:

Being Eighteen

Do I look fancy, being eighteen? Do I look ready for your shores, and horizons, and bullshit? This is how to display unconvincing bravado. Have you ever lost strength in your arms and thought it was all in your mind? That could be the eighteen coming back. This is how to stretch your wingspan, how to pretend you know everything when you know impressions of nothing. How to dress like a dead icon, how to stand on a cliff before older boys and dive, how to drive too fast, but reliably, on a dirt road, how to cut a mango, how to drive a stick shift, how jump in cold, cold water. Here is love in a mitten, in a ski boot, in a sleeping bag, in a backseat, here we are in the family album. Here’s a pretty photo of a dance, and here’s us in the park with patches on our pants. Don’t you look back and scorn or wince.  Don’t you cast back with disdain. Don’t hook the brush and pretend, and don’t you wait for the frame to break. Here is the coin of our perspective at the bottom of the lake. Tell me, where would you be without it? Here is the water of the childhood we share, in the valley.

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This is a Flathead Valley poem, for sure, because that is where I was at eighteen. Where where you at eighteen, poemfriends? Happy Saturday!

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