Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Where do the Bong Trees grow?

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

         My grandmother Harriett used to sing this to me when I was a child.  She sang to me often.  And eventually we sang it together, my grandma and I.  She was both an elementary teacher and grandma extraordinaire.  Looking back, I see how we bonded through our mutual love of language and literature.  She introduced me to Charlotte's Web (still my favorite book), Stuart Little, The Little Fish that Got Away, and the Little Engine that Could.  Before the books, she taught me about Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, the Three Blind Mice, and the dish (who always ran away with the spoon!) Her stories became my stories.  Her world became my world. A magical world of make believe where three little kittens lose their mittens and the cow jumps over the moon. 
        Now I am grown and she has long since passed.  I have evolved into a "distinguished" reader, one with a diverse repertoire who deals out harsh criticism of prose and poetry. I know what literary theory you are talking about and where the comma goes (not here!).  I have a piece of paper on my wall that says I have spent many hours dissecting language here, there, and everywhere.  Although now, the words are big and the content complicated.
       Why am I telling you this?
       Well, driving home tonight, I glanced at the full moon and a line of this verse flew into my head.  Yet try as I must, I could not recall the entire tale.  So I decided to Google it (yes, I know I'm not supposed to begin a sentence with "so").  Then I re-read these verses that I have not seen or heard since childhood.  The verses had a profound impact on me.  This day was filled with so much drama and chaos that I cannot even gather the words to articulate how hard my brain was running all day long and the range of feelings I endured.  While I myself couldn't  find the words, I discovered that Edward Lear could and did.  Therefore instead of describing all of the events in detail and the conclusions I've drawn in an original poem, I think this story summarizes it. And for all of you without pieces of papers on your walls, this is what one can learn from the Owl and Pussycat:

           I should live while I am here.
Eat. Cry.
Sing a song (or, at least sing along).
Express love. Seize the moment.
Look up at the stars.
Hold someone's hand mentally or physically.
Run away for a year and a day. 
And, most imperatively, I should dance by the light of the moon.  The moon, the moon-- by God, I should dance by the light of the moon.

     Goodnight all and thanks for listening xoxo

Sunday, January 1, 2012


It is not enough
to rip this new year from its shiny packaging,
inhaling its plasticy scent from stem to stern
and grope its sleek newborn skin.
No, no--I must
cut through its surface layers
to its core,
to the meat of it all,
where the epicenter beats like a tiny, hopeful drum.
The pulsing rhythm is just
a whisper now, a promise
But soon, I will find the middle
and release the song.
The notes will drip down my chin
And my mouth will be filled
with sweet nectar,
sending celestial bursts
that shine for a brief moment
and fade down, down
finally becoming absorbed by
 the well-worn fabric of my heart