Parents Reading Poems

...and reciting.
My mother was a great reader of poems, and she always had a book of them nearby. A Child's Garden of Verses was one of my favorites, but there were many more, and as we grew older, the poems grew more complicated: Poe, Whittier, Masters, and Dickinson. Later she discovered Shel Silverstein, and she read his work to her kids at school, unaware that some of them were banned for promoting cannibalism ("Someone Ate the Baby") or other silly non-reasons.
My dad was a reciter of poems, and he had a million of them. They were generally less literary than mom's, and from time to time he got scolded for choosing ones with words like poop in them or topics we were too young to understand, like marital infidelity. (No, I didn't get it, but I liked the fact that Mom was afraid I might.)

They made me a life-long lover of poetry, and I actually use poetry to calm myself down. If I can't sleep, I recite some of the two-dozen or so long poems I memorized as a result of teaching high school English for decades. The combination of different topic, rhythmic cadence, and effort needed to recall the lines distracts me from whatever I'm stuck on long enough to let me go to sleep.
When my spirits need a lift, I recall (sometimes in bits and pieces) the poems my parents passed on as I was growing up and almost immediately feel better. 

These days I can visit Mom or Dad simply by reciting their favorite poems in my head. The lines come in their voices, and I can almost see their faces, Mom's intent on the book, Dad grinning a little at the humor in his favorites. I contend that poetry has done me much good in my life and certainly no harm. Every parent should find a few poems to read or recite to the kiddies. It balances those nagging parenting moments that are necessary but sometimes unpleasant, and makes for peaceful, enjoyable times together. It's a legacy your children will carry with them always.

One of Mom's favorites:
Choosing Shoes  by Frida Wolfe
New shoes, new shoes,
Red and pink and blue shoes.
Tell me, what would you choose,
If they'd let us buy?
Buckle shoes, bow shoes,
Pretty pointy-toe shoes,
Strappy, cappy low shoes;
Let's have some to try.
Bright shoes, white shoes,
Dandy-dance-by-night shoes,
Perhaps-a-little-tight shoes,
Like some? So would I.
Flat shoes, fat shoes,
Stump-along-like-that shoes,
Wipe-them-on-the-mat shoes,
That's the sort they'll buy.

One of Dad's (I chose a clean one. There are lots of versions of this online, but none like Dad's.):
One dark day in the middle of the night,
Two dead men got up to fight.
A blind man stood by to watch fair play, 
And a dummy shouted, "Hooray, hooray!"
A dead horse came galloping by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye--
Knocked him through an eight-foot wall
And down in a dry ditch that drowned them all.


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