To Mel at 60

26 Jul

To Mel at 60

(with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

If you can keep on rising each day early
to swim and run and cycle in the rain
can miss the family fun and not be surly
because you’re lifting weights and must cross-train;

If you precede the body crush on entry
glide in the swimmer’s slipstream just ahead
remember to stroke round the lane-way buoy
and reach transition point still in the lead;

If you at once can change, eat, drink, and helmet
then mount that bike and grip those handlebars
pedal hills, declines, curves without an upset
and don’t get in the way of passing cars;

If tortured legs survive all of that motion
and make it through the gruelling running stage
we’ll know you’re in possession of youth’s potion
oh Ironman, doomed to live twice your age!

© 2012 by Violet Nesdoly


This is what is often called an “occasional poem,” that is, a poem written for a special occasion. This occasion was a friend’s 60th birthday (in early June this year). My fit friend has recently taken up running in triathlons, so I tried to reflect that in my poem.

It’s fun to write poems for special occasions. I’ve written them for birthdays, funerals, anniversaries, and I even wrote and read a poem to my daughter on her wedding day.

This is also an imitation poem in that it mimics a well-known piece. I’m sure you recognize Rudyard Kipling’s famous “If—” in the wording, structure and rhythm. Writing imitation poems can be a lot of fun (I even had one in quarrtsiluni this February!).

Have you written occasional poems? Imitation poems? I’d love to hear about them (or even read them) in the comments.

This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Bibliophile at Life Is Better With Books.


Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Imitation, Light, Personal, Poetry Friday


14 responses to “To Mel at 60

  1. Katya

    July 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

    My husband’s family has a tradition of writing occasional poems set to the tunes of famous (and not-so-famous) songs for special occasions. We hosted his grandmother’s 90th birthday party this past weekend and there were many amusing occasional poem-songs.


    • vnesdoly

      July 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

      Now that is a fun tradition! Actually Mel’s son, who plays a mean guitar did something like that for him when he sang “Sixty ways to be Mel H.” to the tune of “Sixty ways to leave your lover.”


  2. Robyn Hood Black

    July 27, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for sharing, Violet! My hubby just turned 50, and I’m not terribly far behind, so I’m paying attention to these “occasions.” Yay for your fit friend! I love the family tradition that Katya shared above, too.


    • vnesdoly

      July 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Yes, take notes, Robyn. I find the decades are flying by, not to speak of individual years. But not so fast, we can’t mark of them with poetry.


  3. Tabatha

    July 27, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Violet, you are so good at rising to the occasion 🙂 ! Congratulations to Mel.


    • vnesdoly

      July 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Tabatha: ‘rising to the occasion’ Ha! As for Mel, he’s a young 60… doesn’t seem a day over 40 to me.


  4. laurasalas

    July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Fun, Violet! I never write occasional poems–I think I’m too self-conscious to share them if I did. I’ve done a few imitative poems (mostly as a self-teaching thing) and some song parodies, too. Here’s one:


    • vnesdoly

      July 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Laura, I read you favorite things poem – it’s wonderful, and all the more so because it was presented by the letter B. Clever lady. You have a knack for this; you should do it more often.


  5. Laura Shovan

    July 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    What a great tribute to your friend. I loved the line “glide in the swimmer’s slipstream” — there’s advice for living well.


    • vnesdoly

      July 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks, Laura! I’m glad you picked up that slipstream business. Not being much of a swimmer myself, I wouldn’t know about slipstreams, but I did a little research on triathlons and found that swimmers take advantage of them when they swim in a horde. As you point it, it’s applicable to more than just swimming.


  6. Linda Baie (@LBaie)

    July 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I missed today because I’ve been off the internet since yesterday, finally on about a half hour ago. This is such a lovely tribute to your friend, Violet. What fun! I’ve mostly written occasional poems for my grandchildren. One is for the most recent one’s birth. You can find it here: Thank you for showing us another way to write poems Violet!


    • vnesdoly

      July 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Welcome back, Linda, and thanks! I just went over to read the poem written about the birth of your granddaughter. It’s gorgeous! Such writing is bound to be successful, though, because it comes straight from the heart. I can sure tell yours does.


  7. Mary Lee

    July 28, 2012 at 4:35 am

    How fun that the birthday of the triathlete included a sort of triathlon! Way to go, Mel! I won’t be taking up such an athletic pursuit between now and 60, but I hope I can still enjoy swimming, biking, and, if not running, then at least hiking/walking when I get to the next decade marker! And wouldn’t it be fun to have a poet like you immortalize me in verse!

    I’ve written a Where I’m From poem, too, but my favorite “poem of imitation” (thank you for that label) is based on PIED BEAUTY by Gerard Manley Hopkins (whose birthday is today):


    • vnesdoly

      July 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Thank you, Mary Lee. “Immortalize” – not so much, rather “roast’!

      I went over and read your imitation of “Pied Beauty” and it has my brain dancing and fingers itching. I consider myself challenged!



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