It’s the same celebration every year:

the night sky explodes into a meadow of neon

dandelions, happy, so happy to be nothing

against the triumphant mouth of a giant

baby, a new cousin eating each perfect puff

& showing Auntie & Uncle how much

of the world is already theirs. Everyone claps.

It’s true, I was there & saw the glinting

wristwatches & fool’s gold in their mouths.

&, too, the emptiness when it’s over,

when the baby is too full to continue weeding

the sky, when everyone goes back inside to out-sing

each other at karaoke & I can hear

the soprano notes I can’t hit, the beer clinking,

the pretend goodbyes, the congratulations

that never feel quite right, & the hollow

left in the sky, asking why flowers

have to explode every time we come together.

But to tell you the truth: I’m sorry, I lied, I

wasn’t there, I was two

neighborhoods over, my parents asleep

& the glow of someone else’s firework show

on my face as I sat in front of the TV,

pretending to feel the earth rumble.

Noreen Ocampo is a Filipina writer and poet based in Atlanta. She is the author of the forthcoming chapbook, Not Flowers (Variant Literature, 2022), and her poems can also be found in Taco Bell Quarterly, Hobart, and {m}aganda Magazine, among others. She is a blog co-editor and web editor for COUNTERCLOCK and studies English, film, and media at Emory University. Say hi on Twitter @maybenoreen!