When my son was very young, no older than three, we brought him to a poetry reading that I was part of at St. Mark’s Place in New York City. Reading and reciting poems with me, especially ones that I made up for him, was one of his favorite things to do, and we figured that he would get a kick out of seeing me read in front of an audience. Right from the start, he resisted the idea, telling us not just that he didn’t want to go, but that he didn’t want me to read at all. Most especially, he did not like the idea of my reading any of the poem I’d written for him, which I had suggested, thinking it might make him happy. I obviously couldn’t not to go to the reading, and my memory is that my wife wanted to come as well, which meant that we had no choice to bring our son with us. He rode relatively quietly in the car, and he sat quietly was well while the poets who preceded me got up to read their work. Even when I got up to read, he was quiet, but when the first words came out of my mouth, he started crying and screaming so loudly that my wife had to take him out of the building. I read for about ten minutes and went immediately outside, where my son was still crying. He cried all the way back to the car, he cried while we strapped him into his child safety seat, and he kept crying, no matter what my wife and I said to him, as we drove up Third Avenue to the 59th Street Bridge, which would take us back to Queens. It wasn’t until I started to recite the poems I’d written for him that he calmed down, and then he started smiling and laughing, and I’m pretty sure I remember him asking me to say each of them more than once. It was almost as if he’d thought that by reading my poems in front of an audience I had somehow given away the poems that were ours, as if he’d been afraid he would never be able to get them back. When we got home, I recited them a few more times and then he fell into a deep, deep sleep, no doubt exhausted from the exertion of all that crying.
This happened more than ten years ago, and I had forgotten the lines to most of the poems I’d written for him. Then, a couple of days ago, I was doing some file maintenance on my computer and I found the Word document in which I’d typed them up. They are all limericks, and they, I think, held up pretty well. So I thought I would share them here.
The girl in the tree looked down
and said to herself with a frown,
“I’ve climbed up so high
but I still don’t know why.”
So she stayed till she knew then climbed down.
A boy sitting up on a wall
was bouncing his little green ball.
He bounced it so high
it reached up to the sky
and he said, “I wish I were that tall.”
A boy who was eating his cookie
in a house that was really quite spooky
heard a ghost cry out, “Boo!”
So the boy yelled, “To you too!”
Then he finished his chocolate chip cookie.
A girl who was wearing read pants
went out to dig for some ants.
She dug really deep,
to where the ants sleep,
and they woke and crawled into her pants.