Many years ago I had the opportunity to be something of a father to two children. I wrote each of them a number of little works. These were poems for the younger of the two.
The Aardvark loves to dig and dig --
after all, its name means "earth pig"
and like a pig it likes to put its nose
(it's long and round and rubbery like a hose)
into dirt and leaves and homes of ants.
It'll eat almost everything -- an old pair of pants,
library paste, brussel sprouts, crusts of bread,
newspapers, stones, and an occasional bed.
(Not really -- I just put that in to be silly.)
There aren't many animals like this dilly,
with skin like cardboard and very hairy,
this first animal named in the dictionary.
Boys are weird -- and far too loud.
And they like to hang around in a crowd.
They're always trying to pick a fight
or play war or throw things.
They're not too bright.
There are lots of them all over the place --
my mother says that some day
I might even like to look at their face
and kiss them!! No way!!
For right now I'll put up with them --
sometimes they're fun to be around.
They can throw mud pretty well
and scream pretty good and roll around on the ground.
I guess I'll let them sing their tune --
but if they try to kiss me -- POW!! to the moon!!
I love to get dirty --
it's my favorite love.
To pile on the dirt without getting hurt
is the best thing I can think of.
To get it down between my toes,
under my fingers, up my nose,
on my cheeks and in my ears --
it's the best fun I've had in years.
But then!! here comes the voice:
"Time to get cleaned up." I've got no choice
but to climb in the tub and take that soap
and hope and hope and hope and hope
that is doesn't all wash away.
But it does. And all my fun goes down the drain.
But wait!! I don't have to feel this way --
there's always tomorrow! And so I use my brain
to figure out how to get the dirt
in my hair and down my shirt,
on my hands and around my knees --
Mom, don't call me in too soon, please??!!
My mother always makes a stink
about good manners when I eat.
"Fine dining," she demands --
that means no fingers, no train wrecks.
But I don't think it's fair that she expects
that I should keep my hands
full of knives and forks, always neat.
It's too much to ask, I think.
How much more fun it is to dig
through your food like a pig!
How great it feels to burp
and snort and gulp and slurp!
If only adults would let themselves go
and get that spaghetti sauce on their chins
and blow bubbles in their Coke
and get ketchup on their shirts --
then they'd leave us all alone
and quit this stuff about "Fine dining,"
rip that chicken apart, bone by bone,
and smile, their faces greasy and shining.
There are days when I get up
that I feel like a wet paper towel
and when people say "Good morning" to me
I just want to howl
"Leave me alone!". I don't want anyone to erase
the snarly gnarly in my face.
But when they ask me what's wrong
I usually don't give them the gong --
I say "Nothing".
Why do I say "Nothing" when it's really "Everything"?
It's just sometimes too much work
to tell them that I'm tired of my sister
and that my best friend yesterday is a jerk
today, and that the school lunch was like glue
and the teacher was like glue, too.
Sometimes "Nothing" piles up so tall
that "Everything" makes me feel real small.
That's when I'll call you names
and act like the whole world gives me pains.
But I usually get over it and get my best face back.
Then you can give me "Everything" for a snack!!
Sometimes friends aren't easy to like.
They'll call you names, then borrow your bike
and you'll wonder what you ever saw in such a loon --
then you'll eat lunch together and play all afternoon,
and be friends forever.
It's a lot of work to keep good friends
and they don't always make it easy to do.
But without them everything good seems to end
and the world can seem empty and blue.
A good friend comes back around
even if you have a few bumps along the way.
So fight with 'em, yell at 'em, but keep 'em close
and then play long and hard all day.
Sometimes I think I'm popping out of my clothes
I'm growing up so fast.
One day I think my shoes are gonna last
and the next day they're scrunching my toes.
I'm not sure I like all this --
it was better being small.
Everyone paid attention to me
and put me on their backs to make me tall.
But I couldn't see over counters
and all the store clerks would ignore me
and in crowds I got jerked along
and banged against everybody's knee.
So I guess I'll keep on growing up
(I really can't fight it, I suppose) --
popping my buttons and stretching my pants --
what fun it'll be to buy new clothes!!
Home is waking up in the dark
and having someone there to turn on the light;
home is cutting your finger bad
and having someone bandage it up tight.
Home is being able to run in and tell
about every little fight in the neighborhood,
then run back out and have someone yell
"Close the door!" and make you wear your hood.
Home is where the laundry gets done
and there's popcorn on Friday night;
where the toilet paper runs out
and napkins will have to be all right.
Home is all the little things
that make you who you are:
love and glue and irritation
and pickles in the jar.
Want to confuse someone and get them going?
Tell them that their inverploop is showing.
They'll look at you like you're absurd
for telling them such a stupid word.
But they'll check to see if their fly is zipped
or if the armpit of their shirt is ripped
or if their underwear hangs out
or if there are boogers in their snout.
They'll smile real nervous
because they don't know what the word means --
just shake your head and smile back
and say, "Your inverploop! What a scream!"
They'll straighten their ties, go messing
with their hair. Just laugh and keep 'em guessing.
You'll throw everyone you know into a loop
all because of their inverploop!
I've got a family full of J's --
everyone's name begins the same way.
Jeffrey, my uncle, answers to "Jeff" --
his name is full of breath.
There's John and Jim, two uncles more --
they like to wrestle me on the floor.
My grandmother Joyce has a house on the lake
where I can swim with Aunt Janey during the summer break.
But the "J" I like is my mom Joan --
with her I really feel at home.
We can jump and joke and just hang out --
she's a "J" I care a lot about.
Lately I've come to see
a person in the mirror
who looks a lot like me.
She has my name and nose,
and when I stick out my tongue
she strikes the same pose.
Lately her face has changed --
sometimes day to day:
her mouth and eyes get rearranged,
her hair gets longer,
make-up gets on her cheek --
and she seems to be getting stronger.
I think I like this person --
she agrees with everything I say --
and while our friendship might sometimes worsen
I'm pretty sure she'll stay.
"Kara, this is my best friend, Kara."
"How nice to meet you. Let's go play."
It starts way down deep
in my abdomen --
like a burp
that's just roamin'
around until it can find
a way to get out.
Then it travels up my throat,
tickles my tongue,
makes me close my eyes --
then my stomach pumps like a one-lung
engine and air whistles through
my nose and mouth
until I sound like a calliope*
in the parade on July the Fourth
and the air fills with the wonderful
sound of my body enjoying itself.
There are lots of different kinds of laughs --
sniggers, guffaws, titters, snorts --
but nothing feels like a good belly-deep,
thigh-slapping, rib-hurting, cheek-tightening,
*calliope -- a musical instrument that makes sounds by steam blowing through a whistle.
That's what they say when we're together..."
I'm singing as loud as I can
and bouncing up and down in my chair --
the music is blasting as loud as it can
and Tiffany -- oh, I wish I could dare
to sing like Tiffany!!
"'Cause what would they say
If they ever knew..."
Sing louder! Start dancing around!
With these headphones on
the whole world goes away
and I don't have to pay attention
to "Pick up this!" and "Sit up straight!"
and "Eat all you food and clean your plate."
"Running just as fast as we can..."
I'm so into it I don't notice
my sister standing in the door
laughing at me singing away --
but I don't care, I'm Tiffany,
and I'll sing some more!
Go, Tiffany, go!
"Never" is an interesting word.
It means that something can't happen ever, ever.
But can you ever be sure something can't happen?
How do you know until you try
that something won't fly?
Never say "never" (there, I said it!)
until you know for sure
because you tried to find out.
If you always have "never"
at the top of your list
you'll never know
how much you've missed.
Wouldn't it be queer
if the "O" decided to disappear?
Then Oreo would be _re_ --
and w_uldn't taste very g__d.
And when y_u went t_ sit at a fire,
there w_uldn't be any w__d.
(And there w_uldn't be any c__kies t_ eat
while y_u warmed y_ur feet.)
And y_u c_uldn't ch__se y_ur cl_thes,
y_ur sh_es w_uld have h_les,
y_ur bl_use w_uldn't fit,
and y_u c_uldn't have cereal in b_wls.
I h_pe the "O" d_esn't g_ _ver the hill;
it's place w_uld be pretty hard to fill.
What would this world be like
if no one had any weapons?
If countries agreed to stop killing
and put down their guns?
What is peace? What's it like?
It's like this:
it's the difference between
not hitting your sister
and giving her a kiss,
between not hurting someone and
giving someone a helping hand.
Peace is hard work -- sometimes
it's easier to not like someone,
just write them off
and not have to pay attention.
But the easy way isn't always the best --
work for peace, and the rest
will be easier.
QUINTESSENCE OF Q
Q can't go anywhere without U -- they're hitched forever.
Like ham and eggs, horse and buggy,
Abbott and Costello, Ken and Barbie.
Try to think of a Q-words without a U:
you can't. I wonder how they got together?
Maybe when the alphabet was born
everyone made fun of Q because of its short curly tail,
like a tongue hanging out of a mouth,
and they thought it was a stupid letter.
And U felt incomplete because it was open at one end
and the other letters kept dumping things into it.
So they hung out together,
one letter with a little bit extra,
the other needing just a little more.
Now they help each other out.
What do you think their story is?
When the alarm clock rings -- ooh, that stings!
I don't want to crawl out of my warm, warm bed.
I yell, "Just one more minute!"
but I know I want another hour instead.
But soon I get up, grumpy as a bear,
and stumble to my sister's room.
I shake her and she groans.
"I don't want to go to school," is what I hear.
But we both get up, sour as lemons,
and eat our cereal and brush our teeth,
get our clothes on and make our lunches
and get ready to go on our way.
But wait, there's something weird here --
the kids who pass outside haven't passed.
And where's the bus that stops at the corner
(it's already quarter-past)?
I know! I can't believe how dumb I've been!
It's Saturday! It's the weekend!
Simple Sandy sat on a stool,
sipped his snifter full of soda,
snacked on saltines and sardines,
and sang a silly song.
Snotty Sully stepped on Sandy,
stole his snifter, swiped his snacks,
swigged them down with snorts and snickers,
swatted Sandy and swaggered away.
Sandy said he wasn't sad,
said Sully just needed supper.
Sully, shamed, went to Sandy,
said he was sorry. Sandy smiled.
It's a special kind of light --
soft, full of color (usually reds and pinks),
the kind of light just before dinner,
when mothers and fathers come out on the porch
and call their sons and daughters to eat;
when you want to get in the last "it" in tag
or make one last catch of the football or
ride your bike one more time around the block.
"Twi" means two, and twilight stands between
the day just ending and the night just starting.
Just like you do sometimes, standing between
being young again and going into third grade,
between one birthday and the next.
Twilight's a good light, just like you,
full of color, with so much going on.
DUE U NO THESE?
Ululate means howl -- why don't they say that?
Umbra means shadow -- why don't they say that?
Ultimate means last -- why don't they say that?
Umber means brown -- why don't they say that?
Umpteen means many -- why don't they say that?
Urbiculture means city life -- why don't they say that?
Utilitarian means useful -- why don't they say that?
Why use a long word when a short word will do?
I don't know -- due u?
V IS VERY VALUABLE
A lot of letters in the alphabet
wouldn't be around if it weren't for "V".
Get a pencil and try these out:
Add a leg, and you have a Y.
Put two together, you get a W.
Turn it upside down, add a bar, and you have an A.
Turn two upside down together and you get an M.
Lay it on its side, point to the left, and there's a C.
Point it the other way, add a line, and you get D.
One straight up, one upside down, gives you an N.
Take a D, add a flagpole on the left, and you get a P.
Take the P, add a leg, and you get an R.
In the old Roman alphabet, V was also used for U.
Take and N, turn it partway around, and there's a Z.
Y,W,A,M,C,D,N,P,R,U,Z -- can you make a word out of these?
If you're ever bored and need something to do,
go to the mall and watch people pass by.
It's free and they don't mind a bit,
and no one will ever ask you why.
You'll see bodies of every shape and design,
from fat to skinny to pudgy to slim.
You'll see noses both broad and refined,
and some with hair on their chinny-chin-chin.
They'll wear the most outrageous clothes,
blue on purple, dots on plaid, big colors spaced,
punk haircuts, safety pins in ears,
torn jeans, chains, sneakers unlaced.
Short people, tall people, people in between,
fathers with tempers, kids who make a scene,
teenagers eating cookies, old people drinking coffee,
a woman walks by eating ice cream with toffee.
The whole human race will be at the mall --
it's great fun, and doesn't cost anything at all.
"X" marks the spot, they always say.
But where is "X" anyway?
It could be the place on the map
where the treasure is stashed
by pirates who stole rubies and gold
and diamonds and pearls and cash.
Or it's a mark on a building
that needs to be destroyed
or the bones under a skull
on a bottle you should avoid.
"X" is the mark you make over you heart
when you want to convince someone you're true,
"X" is the mark you make on your list
when you've finished what you're supposed to do.
Or "X" could be a cross
to keep a vampire away at night
or the name of a person
who doesn't know how to write.
"X" is a useful letter -- it never misses
when you us it to give lots and lots of kisses.
WHY? WHY NOT?
"Y" is a letter that's a question, too,
and one of the most annoying.
Want to drive someone crazy?
Just keeping asking "Y":
"Pick up you? room."
"Because it's dirty."
"Because you left things all over the floor."
"I don't know! Just pick up you? room!"
Be careful -- don't use this a lot
because someone will turn around
and say "Y not?"
And then where will you be?
You may have to move on to Z.
ZEROING IN ON Z
In England it's called "zed" --
but that sounds kinda dead.
"Zee" is a much better sound --
it has more zip, more zing, it buzzes the lips,
makes the tongue take little trips,
and has more zoom, by zounds!
"Z" has great words crowding up
at the end of the dictionary:
there's zabaglione and zany and zebu,
zither and zizith and zloty,
zonked and zygotic and Zulu,
zoonosis and zombie and zymurgy.
And when you go to sleep at night,
there'll be a balloon over your head
full of a bunch of "Z"'s
as you snooze and doze and wheeze.
It wouldn't be as much fun to hear
if it was full of "zeds".