Sixth Birthday Poem for Arianna

February twenty-ninth,
   Two thousand and eighteen:
It is a day that never was,
   That no one’s ever seen.

And yet, my niece, by artful tricks
   All hidden from the scene,
You use this day for turning six,
   An age you’ve never been. 

This special day, by happy rule
   The whole world celebrates.
The kids at the Cathedral School
   Eat cake from paper plates.

But they are not the only ones.
   The squirrels in the park
Are making birthday cakes from nuts
   They gather after dark.

The birds in nests atop the trees
    Are waiting for a crumb.
And snakes in tunnels deep below:
  They also hope for some.

The flags on all the buildings fly
   Exceptionally high
When Arianna, six years old,
   Is noticed passing by.

This is the year you learn to read
   In English and in Greek.
I’m sure you will have got that done
   About this time next week.

And don’t forget there’s dancing, too,
   And painting red and green and blue.
And so keep on advancing through
   The tasks your teachers set for you.

It never is too soon to ask:
  What is the meaning of the task?
What do the grownups want for you
  That you have all these things to do?

Some things are easy, some are tough.
  Why are you learning all this stuff?
And can there ever come a time
  When finally you’ve learned enough?