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Poetry and the Human Condition. Pt 4: Children's Verse.
Kid's poetry gives poets tremendous scope.
Poetry can be invaluable to children as a learning tool.
Poetry wears many hats: has many uses. I don't need to list them; think of anything we do, have done or one day might do, and poetry has chronicled all the whatever's and brought them into print.
One of the strongest fields in which poetry finds itself well ensconced is simple verse for children. Walking a finer line are poems written with youngsters in mind, but actually addressed to adults so they may read them to their offspring at home, or their pupils in class: such more sophisticated verse, if you like, will certainly be enjoyed by teens as they mature.
I have included several from “Charged Particles” which I hope you - and the whole family - might enjoy.
I am sure your kid has asked you how and what his shadow is, that loyal, dancing image of himself which never leaves his side. British people might ask their parents as they may well never have seen one! Here, the poet explains just what shadows are and where they come from (well, it could be true). I was thinking of very young children when I wrote this and I don’t feel the religious overtones are out of place, even for the staunchest non-believer (like the poet, actually).
“Have you ever wondered,
Really wondered why,
Your faithful shadow follows you,
Until the day you die?
Have you ever puzzled,
‘Who put that fellow there?’
That madcap, dancing spirit,
Who’s with you everywhere.
Well, in a secret workshop,
Somewhere up in space,
There’s four-and-twenty angels
Fitting shadows in their place.
Each shadow’s made of moonbeams,
Moulded gently in the sun.
Then sealed with love and kindness
Each and every one.
When each shadow’s finished,
It’s hurried down to Earth,
To join each new born baby
At the moment of its birth.
There the little shadow waits,
Until one sunlit day,
The infant starts to walk:
It’s time to start to play!
When it’s time to go to Heaven,
Each shadow, with great care,
Guides every soul to Jesus,
Bundled snugly in a prayer.
Hand-in-hand in Paradise,
A dancing, merry mime,
You and your loyal shadow,
Until the end of time...”
Do we ever wonder what happens to the life beneath the waves when we are not there to see it, which is nearly always the case?
Do fish, crustaceans and the rest actually behave differently when not faced with the human evil-eye? Except Great Whites, of course, who are just checking to ascertain our edible content. Or clams who just shut the doors on those idiots in rubber fins trying to imitate real sea-creatures.
But do some denizens down there ever wonder what it’s like on dry land; could life among humans be actually better than their own?
Here, a lobster wants to find out!
Lobster the Mobster.
“Creeping slyly through the weed,
Filled with longing lobster greed.
Peeping madly round the wrack:
A scaly tail and a slimy back.
Riding the current from the north;
Lobster-the Mobster sallies forth.
As he slithers from his foetid cave,
On his mind are deeds most grave:
Not for him mere lobster pranks,
Like churning up the sandy banks;
Or irritating passing whales,
By nipping at their tender tails.
The Mobster’s made a raft of cork,
He plans to sail it to New York.
He hopes to buy a life of fame,
With doubloons from the Spanish Main.
He hopes to charm the US nation...
‘Three cheers for the wise crustacean!’
His crew, to say the least, are queer:
The mate’s a crab with a crooked leer,
The cook’s an ancient, wrinkled plaice,
The cabin-boy a simpering dace.
Six squid propel the raft with force ,
As a star-fish shyly points the course.
The voyage is over, New York’s home.
It’s ‘Lobster-the-Mobster and Al Capone!
A silk tuxedo, a rich cigar -
He’s chauffeured in a Cadillac car!
But success was short for the crafty sinner
Big Al and the Boys all had him for dinner!”
Kids are often unkind to animals. I know I was and, as an adult, no one is a bigger defender of the pawed and furred.
But kids seem to go through a period where it’s de rigueur to torment animals, generally the house pets. “I wonder what the goldfish does without water?” “Ohhh what fun, swinging bunny by one ear!” “Boo-hoo, mum, I didn’t know the microwave would really hurt Happy the hamster!”
They do mostly grow out of these cruel ways and begin to love and respect their pets. And so they should, because, for some, there is retribution in the form of a cat which can come out at night and visit bad children!
Revenge of the Hell-Cat.
Kiddies, do you hear a wail
When pulling on poor kitty’s tail.
Do you, Mandy, Jenny, Sue,
Colin, Andy...I mean you!
Do you think it’s such great fun,
To tease your kitten; make her run?
Stamp and shout; hoot with glee -
‘Look at kitty, tee, hee, hee!’
Well, careful, Bobby, Charlie, Dave,
Fun like this can be most grave:
Sometimes, when the moon is right,
On a special, SCAREY night!
Kitties get a special power -
Just around the MIDNIGHT hour!
When the moon is coldly glowing -
KITTY’S IN THE GARDEN, GROWING!
Soon she’s bigger than a lion:
Wicked fangs and jaws of iron.
Then dear kiddies - are you PALE?
She REMEMBERS who pulled her tail!
And she EATS THEM, starting with the toes,
And finally, munching on the NOSE!
So consider well, all you kiddies,
BEFORE you start to torment kitties!”
Hope you liked those, don’t forget to read ‘em to the babes!