I'm so excited to share that I had six poems published in Cricket magazine this summer! The July/August issue features my sextet, "Poems of Galapagos." They're funny and sciencey all at the same time. Here's another one from my Galapagos series:
NEW MOON HUNTING
Galápagos fur seal
Inky night, winking moon,
Mighty hunger—hunting soon.
We steal, concealed, through sky-black seas
In seal invisibility.
Oh, squid divine! Oh fish delish!
A life of new moon nights, our wish!
For when the round moon hunts the dark,
devouring it—a great night shark--
and calls her finning sisters near
to hunt us--we must disappear.
Though our bellies tell us: more!
We’re full moon napping,
For the Earth’s smallest—and only tropical—seal, the darker the night, the better. So new moon nights (or as I like to call them, “no moon nights”) are their favorite time to hunt. Big, bulgy eyes help this nocturnal mammal spot prey. When night turns to day, this “bear of the sea” cools its heavily furred body by lounging around in tidal pools or in the shade of lava crags and caves. Unlike its northern and southern cousins, this equatorial pinniped (flipper-foot) spends most of its time on land.
Did you know that the Galápagos fur seal isn’t really a seal? It’s a sea lion. Ear flaps on the outside are the give-away. But the name has stuck.
Yellow armadillos snoozing,
naptime at the zoo.
These guys are usually playing
But today there's something new:
A double-decker armadillo,
one stacked on the other!
I wonder how they choose
just who's to snooze on top its brother.
Do they chat about it nicely?
Do they argue? Flip a dime?
Have a gentlemen's agreement?
Is it different every time?
In the middle of the night,
Does their mother make them swap?
I think whoever stays awake the longest
Gets to sleep on top!
About this poem: My kids and I visit the zoo so often we've named many of the animals. These little yellow armadillos we call Malcolm and Griffin, after my boys. They're usually digging in the sand or chasing each other playfully (I think....). Not today. "Armadillo" is an easy rhyme with "pillow," but there were no pillows in sight today--just an armadillo bunk bed!
Uncle Bobby says I hatched from an
egg with polka dots.
He says my brother hatched from one with
pink and purple spots.
He says our mother sat on us
for forty-seven weeks
before we pecked ourselves
out of our shells
with pointy yellow beaks.
Uncle Bobby says the webs
between our toes dissolved
and then our stubby wings fell out
before our spindly arms evolved.
I think I don’t believe him.
But (just between you and me)?
There’s something strange perched somewhere
up there in our family tree.
About this poem: When my boys were about three and four, the oldest asked if he'd come from an egg. I said yes, and continued with what I thought was a brilliantly simple yet accurate response. My listeners glazed over, then dismissed it as nonsense. So the next time he asked, I said, yes, they'd hatched from eggs alright—Malcolm's had a purple shell and Griffin’s was green. That was much more satisfying for all parties. There is a time and a place for lying, and it is in the home when you have small children. (That of course is a lie!)
Writing this poem, I thought about how everyone feels like their family is a little bit (or a lot bit) strange and crazy. Uncle Bobby (who in real life is a family friend and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the adult in this picture) became the teller of the tall (or not so tall???) tale.
Mom says that Grandma and Grandpa have tails
they keep hidden inside their pants.
Grandma’s is long, fluffy, pink, and prehensile.
Grandpa can write with his, holding a pencil.
Each morning they groom them and
curl them up tight,
being careful they don’t touch the floor,
then tuck them up snug in the back of their pants
so they won’t get caught in a door.
Mom says my grandparents swing from the trees
by their tails and she raises her brows.
“And you know, long ago they rode out on the range
and used them to lasso the cows.”
I’ve asked my Grandma, and she told me that
when it comes to tall tails, Mom could write the whole book.
But I’m not so sure. Else why doesn’t Grandma
let me look?
About this poem: When my niece and nephew were toddlers, my sister, Susanna, thought it would be hilarious if she told them that our parents have tails that no one ever saw because they kept them inside their pants. As my sister and her family lived right down the road, her kids saw a lot of their grandparents. But never enough of them to know if it was true.
Much to my disappointment, Susanna controlled her impulse and never actually told Chloe and Myles that Mom and Dad have tails. But when I had my own children, I wasn't so mature. They only believed me for a little while, but still, IT HAS NEVER BEEN VERIFIED EITHER WAY.
PS: Prehensile is one of my favorite words. Appendages that can curl are prehensile, like an opossum's tail or a monkey's toes. I wish I had a prehensile tail I could write with.
Terklington Fluffious Foresterhof,
My grizzled old hamster, is out of his mind.
He’s convinced that he lives in a kingdom he rules
full of fools. He’s half deaf and all blind.
Terklington Fluffious Foresterhof
sleeps all day and he parties all night.
His gold wheel emits a high, terrible squeal
That he pays me to fix with a bite.
I scoop up his poop and I freshen his bedding
and offer fat seeds he receives with delight.
Terklington Fluffious thinks that he’s king!
I’m glad that he’s not right.
ABOUT THIS POEM: This poem was my entry for Round 2 in the 2019 MadnessPoetry tournament. I lost. But I lost by a very small margin to a very good poet, RJ Clarken. I admit, I didn't take full advantage of the prompt word, "grizzled," but once King Terklington got into my head, there was no budging him. I like the internal rhymes in this verse, and the fact that the hamster's "master" really thinks that he's the one in charge. I also just enjoy hamsters, even when they're cranky.
As you're dashing for the rainbow's end
to claim that pot o' gold,
if the world holds up a STOP sign
will you do as you are told?
Well some folks would. And they're the ones
whom no one'd ever scold.
They'd stop and wait for a sign to GO
cuz they're doin' as they're told.
They'd never find the rainbow's end,
just stand until they're old
and watch their dreams evaporate,
doin' as they're told.
So when a STOP sign looms ahead,
sure, do as you are told:
stop. Look both ways. Then GO!
Go find that pot o' gold.
ABOUT THIS POEM: I was out running one morning and turned a corner to see this amazing rainbow. It ended right there in the field across the street, just beyond two signs telling me to STOP! I thought about how boring and primitive the world would be if everyone chasing a rainbow stopped when they were told to. Of course, it's always a good idea to stop at a stop sign, but it's important to never, ever forget to start going again!
Ms. Betsy's oldest surviving poem is one she wrote in the third grade. "Down in the Sewer" didn't make her popular, but it made a small group of loyal fans very cheerful. Some of the latest poems she's written, "Six Poems of the Galapagos," will appear in Cricket Magazine in the summer of 2020. She hopes they'll reach a wider audience than her first poem did, and make more people cheerful...and possibly provoke some thoughts, as well.