The 1799 birth certificate

"Birth" by Mandy Vangoeije, with permission
“Birth” by Mandy van Goeije, with permission

has a poem in its design.

We read it, admire the art,

and then my daughter asks,

“Daddy, what’s my birth poem?”

I’m oddly embarrassed

to admit, “You don’t have one.”


She asks, “Have you looked?”

She knows that sometimes

I’m not the most observant

leaving for work wearing

mismatched socks and clothes.

It’s possible something like this

could have gone right by me.


I tell her that I’m sure, then

suggest, maybe her birth poem

is hers to write.  Somehow

I think this will sound more

inspirational or profound

than it does.  When I say it

out loud, it just sounds dumb.


What I should have done

is figure out what she wants.

Does she want me to tell her

her life started with a poem?

That she has a heritage

of beauty and verse?  That

poets sing of her as well?


“I don’t have one either,” I say.

She nods and then suggests,

“Maybe we can write each other’s.”

This makes no sense either,

yet I like the sound of it.

I sip my coffee and say, “Maybe,

that’s what we’re doing now.”



Enter the Queen with her hair about her ears Author PicA faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills holds an endowed chair, the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. He has published four collections of poetry with Press 53. His fifth collection, This Miraculous Turning, will be released in September 2014. More information is available on his website and on his blog.



Mandy van Goeije is a Dutch artist/illustrator and (online) art teacher. After having worked as an English teacher in high school for five years, she decided to change her career and become an art teacher/artist. Until then, she’d developed herself artistically through mixed media paintings, mixed media jewelry, and art journaling. She even went to art school for a year where they told her she was always illustrating. And they were right! Mandy always try to tell a story with her work. She loves expressing herself visually. Since the art school she went to didn’t have much regard for illustrators, she quit and taught herself by studying illustrators’ and artists’ work and techniques. It proved vital that she learned to work with supplies in her own fashion because it set her apart. She now helps others develop their own authentic and artistic style. Mandy finds inspiration in the wee things in life, in fairy tales, other cultures, poetry, music, and nature. And she still works in her art journal on a regular basis. It’s her laboratory, her exercise field, her little treasure box of memories, her playground, and her best friend. For more information about her work, visit her online at

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