Billy Collins pays tribute to his favorite 17 year old high school girl

Poem in Your Pocket

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I heard Billy Collins, who has twice been chosen as the United States Poet Laureate, read this on a National Public Radio program and it stuck with me.

To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl 

Billy Collins

Do you realize that if you had started

building the Parthenon on the day you were born

you would be all done in only two more years?

Of course, you would have needed lots of help,

so never mind, you’re fine just as you are.

You are loved for simply being yourself.

But did you know at your age Judy Garland

was pulling down $150,000 a picture,

Joan of Arc was leading the French army to victory,

and Blaise Pascal had cleaned up his room?

No, wait, I mean he had invented the calculator.

Of course, there will be time for all that later in your life

after you come out of your room

and begin to blossom, at least pick up all your socks.

For some reason, I keep remembering that Lady Jane Grey

was Queen of England when she was only fifteen

but then she was beheaded, so never mind her as a role model.

A few centuries later, when he was your age,

Franz Schubert was doing the dishes for his family,

but that did not keep him from composing two symphonies,

four operas, and two complete Masses, as a youngster.

But of course that was in Austria at the height

of romantic lyricism, not here in the suburbs of Cleveland.

Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15

or if Maria Callas debuted as Tosca at 17?

We think you are special by just being you,

playing with your food and staring into space.

By the way, I lied about Schubert doing the dishes,

but that doesn’t mean he never helped out around the house.

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