Poetry Sunday: Counting Backwards by Linda Pastan

Today is my birthday. It will go into the books as perhaps the most unusual birthday I've ever had. Not because of any action on my or my family's part, but simply because of where we are in the world today.

As Linda Pastan says in her poem, I often wonder, "How did I get so old?" Where did all the years go? And like her, it's not really the age, it's the "physics of acceleration" that I mind. Time goes so quickly now. I can remember as a child complaining to my mother that time moved so slowly and she would tell me, "Just wait." It brings to mind the lyrics of an old Joni Mitchell song "The Circle Game" when a sixteen-year-old wants things to move more quickly: "And they tell him, take your time it won't be long now, till you drag your feet to slow the circle down."  

But there's no slowing the circle down and there's no fighting the physics of acceleration. As someone said recently in another context, "It is what it is."

Happy birthday to me.

Counting Backwards

by Linda Pastan

How did I get so old,
I wonder,
my 67th birthday.
Dyslexia smiles:
I’m 76 in fact.

There are places
where at 60 they start
counting backwards;
in Japan
they start again
from one.

But the numbers
hardly matter.
It’s the physics
of acceleration I mind,
the way time speeds up
as if it hasn’t guessed

the destination—
where look!
I see my mother
and father bearing a cake,
waiting for me
at the starting line.


  1. Happy, happy birthday, Dorothy. I am now into the physics of hurtling, but as you say, it is what it is. There is still much to be thankful for and I try to enjoy every day. I am sure you do too.

    1. Every day is a joy, even with all its frustrations.

  2. I like the "toilet roll" analogy the best as far as explaining why time goes faster and faster. Can we look on the bright side - the pandemic will be over (maybe) before we seniors know it? Sadly, it really is what it is but we will have one more chance to change the course of history, on November 3.

    1. The toilet roll explains it as well as anything else!

  3. Happy Birthday, Dorothy! May you celebrate many more to come.

    1. Thank you, Carmen. It's good to hear from you. I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well.

  4. Happy birthday, Dorothy! This is a perfect poem for your day. I agree with you completely. What makes time go so quickly as we get older? Mystery.

  5. A very happy birthday to you, Dorothy. I am not surprised to learn you are another Leo. I am also, my birthday is next week. I have so many Leo friends in my life and now I can count you as another.


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