To Maya on the Occasion of her 18th Birthday

On the day you were born, I felt an explosion of possibility
The world beckoned you with glitter, blades of grass,
A tickling breeze blowing off the Gulf of Mexico.
You grabbed at the air on a February afternoon in Tampa,
Your daddy, your grandmom and I there to catch you,
Full of applause and awe.
I have had eighteen years with you in my midst,
Watching you explore a piece of lint under the couch as you crawled
In search of a beloved toy, hustling breathlessly to a violin lesson
In the frigid early evening darkness of a Brooklyn winter.
Anticipating the caress of a wave at a Puerto Rican beach,
You watch a flurry of porpoises swim gingerly by and immediately wonder
How their lives will be changed by the warming waters.
I love the observer in you, the person who notices all.
Once you heard about a trip at a high school where they
Required each participant to bring a digital camera, and you wondered
What someone who had no access to such a thing might do or feel.
There began my realization that your acute power for hearing not only the blacks and whites but also the full range of grays in-between would take you to
A place of conviction, anger and action.
Some of us can only see the skin of people we pass by on the street,
You allow yourself to witness the skeleton below, sturdy or broken.
I know this can become a heavy weight to bare, the burden of emotions, of empathy.
But you’ve been collecting these sensations since the very start.
Each and every one of them tumbles into the mix, making you the complex, poetic, visionary human being
Being being being
I so know and love.