Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo by John Ciardi

Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo

The morning that the world began
The Lion growled a growl at Man.

And I suspect the Lion might
(if he’d been closer) have tried a bite.

I think that’s as it ought to be
And not as it was taught to me.

I think the Lion has a right
To growl a growl and bite a bite.

And if the Lion bothered Adam,
He should have growled right back at ‘im.

The way to treat the Lion right
Is growl for growl and bite for bite.

True, the Lion is better fit
For biting than for being bit.

But if you look him in the eye
You’ll find the Lion’s rather shy.

He really wants someone to pet him.
The trouble is: his teeth won’t let him.

He has a heart of gold beneath
But the Lion just can’t trust his teeth.

-John Ciardi

This, and other great poems, can be found in the book Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle.

Dust by Sydney King Russell


Agatha Morley
All her life
Grumbled at dust
Like a good wife.

Dust on a table,
Dust on a chair,
Dust on a mantel
She couldn’t bear.

She forgave faults
In man and child
But a dusty shelf
Would set her wild.

She bore with sin
Without protest,
But dust thoughts preyed
Upon her rest.

Agatha Morley
Is sleeping sound
Six feet under
The mouldy ground.

Six feet under
The earth she lies
With dust at her feet
And dust in her eyes.

-Sydney King Russell

Borrowed from Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

Too Blue by Langston Hughes

Too Blue

I got those sad old weary blues.
I don’t know where to turn.
I don’t know where to go.
Nobody cares about you
When you sink so low.

What shall I do?
What shall I say?
Shall I take a gun and
Put myself away?

I wonder if
One bullet would do?
Hard as my head is,
It would probably take two.

But I ain’t got
Neither bullet nor gun –
And I’m too blue
To look for one.

-Langston Hughes

Borrowed from Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

Sonic Boom by John Updike

Sonic Boom

I’m sitting in the living room,
When, up above, the Thump of Doom
Resounds. Relax. It’s sonic boom.

The ceiling shudders at the clap,
The mirrors tilt, the rafters snap,
And Baby wakens from his nap.

“Hush, babe. Some pilot we equip,
Giving the speed of sound the slip,
Has cracked the air like a penny whip.”

Our world is far from frightening; I
No longer strain to read the sky
Where moving fingers (jet planes) fly,
Our world seems much too tame to die.

And if it does, with one more pop,
I shan’t look up to see it drop.

-John Updike

Borrowed from Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

A Word of Explanation

As you will see in this collection of My Favorite Childhood Poems, most of these poems deal with very depressing issues such as “the end of the world”, “nuclear holocaust”, “death”, and “suicide.” It would seem strange to think that these would be a child’s favorite poems. I will attempt to explain.

This is Not a Picture of Me

I grew up during a time when the “end of the world” was always imminent and lived with a mother who was frequently depressed and suicidal. She was also of the “hippie” generation. We were very poor and I had no books of my own but I loved to read. A friend of my mother’s gave me a box of books when I was about 7 years old, and among the books in the box was a real treasure. It was a book of collected poetry called Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle
and I loved it! I still have it to this day, and it is from this book that all of the poems in this section derive.

I was, of course, due to the world and situation in which I lived at the time, particularly drawn to the poems involving “the end of the world”, “nuclear holocaust”, “death”, and “suicide” and that is why these poems have been included here.