THREE POEMS FOR CHILDREN
When you stepped into the water, we said you had upset it, but it would forgive you. And the sun cast a mesh of light over the waves and lit up their tips like birthday candles. We set sail in boats of our own fabrication, sometimes gluing coffee cans or stitching citrus peels together. They left suds in our wake the little fish loved, leaping and boiling in the water like macaroni. Which in turn interested the big fish, and still bigger fish, until we formed a jolly party, coasting along with giants in our wake. Back then, the shore birds weren’t so timid of humans, had no reason to be, might just look down in disdain as we navigated through their long legs. And we sought passage between lakes like voyageurs, parting the cat-tails and reeds with our fingers, following every rivulet and portaging our fruit-peel canoes through the woods. They were light, easy to carry overhead, and fragrant. Of course we were just kids then, had always to deal with curfews and the like, and our exploring range wasn’t the widest. Yet there were still dangers, instances of elk poking their heads out through the undergrowth and snorting and blowing their snot at you. And you had to watch for mosquitoes, which back then swarmed so thick that they could drain a face of all blood in less than a minute. You might grow faint afterwards, and then have to hurry home to swallow a whole plate of spaghetti sauce just to get your color back.
We used to say to the ants, Shoo, little ones, it’s not your turn to inherit the earth yet! Gnats were everywhere also, and if you held open your mouth, liked to settle upon your tongue like snowflakes. An adult might have to warn you, Stop that, you’ll fill up before dinner! Of course, it was considered a high crime for a kid to loiter around the house at all; they would send you out with just a half-sandwich or apple and tell you not to come back till supper. So we built our fort-houses in the woods and led second lives there. And we flew moth kites and held beetle races and sampled strange colorful bugs on a dare. Yes sir, I guess you could say we were always hungry . . .
3. IF I HAD SUPERPOWERS
If I had superpowers, I would glide up and down stairs at the mall so all the shoppers there would scratch their heads and ask, Hey, where do you get on the escalator?
If I had superpowers, I would go into a shoe store, point to a random pair and say, I think I’ll try on those, and then do crazy jumps and flips to make the teenage boys jealous.
If I had superpowers, I would pass someone in the street and say, Hi, and then quickly circumnavigate the planet, pass that same person, and say hi again, just to send out that creepy feeling of déjà-vu.
If I had superpowers, I would visit the cheetah habitat at the zoo and challenge the sleek cat to a race—and then, after I had won, look into the panting creature’s eyes and remark, World’s fastest animal, huh?
If I had superpowers and saw a bully beating on someone, I would offer, Why not hit me instead?—and then, after he’d busted his knuckles on my steel jaw and chest, taunt, Gee, you hit like a girl.
If I had superpowers and passed a homeless woman on the street looking cold, I would focus my x-ray vision upon her blanket or meal, saying, Here, let me heat that up for you.
M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University. His most recent collection of poems is What We Did With Old Moons.