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 weird 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.
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.