Because I stink at it, too.
I stink even at reading poetry. At a Baguio workshop in 2003, panelist/poet J. Neil Garcia (whom I adore just for being Neil), asked me to share what I thought of wunderkind Gelo Suarez's love poem. I looked at the lines on the page, black and white, and launched into a desperate exegesis about the beauty of love.
Neil, gracious as ever, peered at me and said quietly, “You do know this talks about incest, don't you?”
Of course I didn't.
Now, imagine my agony when I tried to combine children's writing and poetry.
I don’t know how well I relate to the young ones. If a child, for instance, were to ask me why the sky is blue, I would answer, “Because it does not look good in red.”
The Coach and I disallowed kids from our wedding, even my beloved nephews and nieces (I have fourteen who deplete my savings every time I go home to Cebu, plus two grandnieces, with another one on the way). No flower girls or ring bearers, no little feet trampling on my veil, no tugging at itchy hemlines.
In the first few years of our marriage, The Coach and I were intolerant of children's excesses. In one trip to Boracay, there was this rambunctious little imp who ran around our smallish banca, squealing and squalling, pitching all of us to and fro. Everyone and his brother was annoyed, but looked the other way. When the little volcano next passed us, The Coach, exasperated, stuck his knee forward and the tyke-tyrant tripped, then caught his footing, and, perhaps scared of his near-tumble, sniffed and ran to his mother, where he stayed quiet the rest of the journey. I could barely restrain a yippee.
(Ahem. Please note the use of the past, past tense. The Coach and I have since matured. Heh.)
I figured children needed a hero so my kiddie poetry often talked about someone saving another, prompting my then classmate and writer extraordinaire Migs Villanueva to say, "May messianic tendencies ka pala, Janet." Eeeps. Not. Just a limited mind, that’s all.
I started with a great title to the, uhm, collection: The Not-So-Ordinary Days of Jamie, but teetered dangerously from thereon. The collection traveled to the land under the stairs (my favorite hidey-hole when I was five), cooked up an alphabet soup that form its letters to warn children of danger, helped a cloud that lost its way, and revealed the magic of the forty winks.
They sound good in theory, perhaps, but the execution was less than desirable. I was hobbled by my myopia that children’s poetry should rhyme. I thought too much like an adult; my language was geared for adult readers. I can almost forgive my teacher for giving me a 2.0 in children's writing class—a failing grade, if you should know. Almost. But not yet.
Here are two of those poems that suck the least. You can bet that when the Lord finds it right to grant us the twins The Coach desires, I will definitely sic these poems on the poor kids. Heh.
Well, at least I know how to rhyme.
When Jamie woke up one bright sunny morning
She saw the world in blue, all colors transforming.
The trees weren’t green,
They were clearly cerulean.
The flowers changed dresses—of that she was sure
Gone the rainbow tresses; they were entirely azure!
“Mom!” cried Jamie, “there’s been a big whammy!
All that I see is a completely blue scenery!”
Mom was so puzzled; she could barely understand it.
So they rushed to Doc Snorton for some handy little fix-it.
Poor Doc Snorton, he didn’t know what to do.
He poked her and checked her ‘til he almost turned blue.
“Ahem,” he’d say when there was nothing else to say.
“I see,” he’d say when there was nothing else to see.
“My dear,” he sighed finally, “this is all a mystery.
How you lost the other colors is really beyond me.”
“Oh no,” Mom said, “what are we to do?
Blue is your favorite but you can’t dump any other hue.”
“That’s it!” yelled Jamie, “that’s exactly what I did!
I adored blue above all, other colors I forbid.
I forgot that all colors make up a pretty rainbow
And only one-seventh is made up of indigo.”
“But how,” Doc asked, “can I put right your eyesight?
I have no treatment or remedy; we have only your insight.”
“I don’t know,” said Jamie, “but I do hope and pray
That my discovery will bring back other colors to stay.”
When Jamie awoke the next sunny morning
Gone were the blues, all the colors returning.
The trees became green
No longer cerulean.
“Hurray!” she rejoiced, “What a resounding relief!
I see red, I see yellow, and green on a leaf!
How wonderful to know that my favorite blue
Only looks better when paired with some other hue.”
The Angry Sink
Jamie was washing some dishes one evening
When a noise crashed into her pleasant daydreaming.
Growwwl, rowwwl, browwwl—went the terrible noise.
Shlurrrp, flurrrrp, blurrrrp—‘twas like no other voice.
“My goodness,” jumped Jamie, “what on earth could that be?
There’s nobody else in the kitchen but me.”
Brreee, greeee, dreeee—it went on and on.
Gurggle, murggle, plurggle—so forth and so on.
Poor Jamie stood shaking, so frightened was she
Of this roaring deep noise from where, she couldn¹t see.
Then all of a sudden, she saw the sink spouting
Some eggshells and clamshells, all stinking and rotting.
“Hogwash and balderdash,” the sink reared up and roared.
“How could I work in peace with all the rubbish you poured?
Hokum and bunkum, what a terrible mess!
The way you wash your dishes makes me really distressed!”
“I’m sorry,” quaked Jamie, “I didn’t realize
That my washing the dishes was the cause of your cries.
But, please, Sir Sink, you must tell me more.
How could I hurt you with an innocent chore?”
“Twaddle, dilly-daddle,” the sink sputtered and stuttered.
“The scraps you poured in me left me littered and cluttered.
Higgledy-piggledy, bits of broccoli and baloney
Are choking my windpipe, what a great big malarkey!”
“I’ll remove all that garbage,” offered Jamie to the sink.
“If you’ll give me a chance, I could be more than you think.
I promise never ever to burden you with garbage.
Ewww, all this rubbish I don’t ever want to rummage!”
So Jamie from then on first scraped away the scraps
To avoid the barrage of an angry sink’s claptraps.
And the sink? He was happy, so peaceful was his swishing
Saving our Jamie from an outburst so alarming.