"Are you going to switch on the laptop?" The wife wants to know. The home computer is shot again; it's not very old, but things break, don't they? "The daughter is supposed to recite a poem for her elocution thing," she continues. "Oh just take one from the Shel Silverstein book," I counter. Fourteen years of marriage has taught me to deflect these ones. But I forget; she's been married for the same numbers of years too. "Oh, everyone has that book now." Caught at silly point, as the cricketing pun goes.
I imagine similar conversations going on in thirty-nine more households. I am about to point out to the wife that everyone will being going online and typing in 'Children+poetry' so we should stick to Silverstein. But the number fourteen pops up in my head again, and I don't.
Silverstein is a phenomenal writer of kids' poetry and we've spent quite few evenings rolling on the floor while reading his poems. But now, as the wife pointed out, he has lost his exclusivity somewhat. And the last thing I want in my lap on this lazy morning is the top. On an impulse I pick up a scrap of paper (you have a lot of these lying around if you have two kids), and a micro-tip pen with orange ink (kids again) and start scribbling. Soon I have a three-stanza poem.
"You wrote this? Now?" Awe. Wonder. Respect. Okay, not the last one. "She is in the fourth grade now. She'll need a longer poem." The laptop looms large again. Back to the scrap, this time with purple ink. Here's the result in black and white.
NOBODY MESSES WITH ME
I don't top the grades
My uniform isn't clean
Oh, I don't even look like a queen
But nobody, you see, messes with me.
School I think is a bore
I never make it on time
Waking up early is the worst-ever crime
But nobody, hey nobody, messes with me.
Reading makes me yawn
Writing gives me pain
And every other thing that involves my brain.
But nobody, my dear, messes with me.
I don't run for sports
This music makes me sick
Yet the teachers, they don't give me the stick
But nobody, but nobody, messes with me.
I come to school for recess
And I really like a muffin
So what if it's in someone else's tiffin
But nobody, got it, messes with me.
I will tell you a secret
If you promise not to share
(As if you'd ever dare)
Why nobody, get this straight, messes with me:
The teacher, you see, is actually related to me
So nobody, not even you, messes with me!
I hope the principal doesn't call us for a little chat.