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!