My friend Anna has always been smarter than me. When we were ten she handed me this:
Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
William Butler Yeats
“Isn’t it beautiful?” said Anna. “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
We were sitting in her father’s office, beside the very trendy Mac. (My family had a Commodore 64.) Anna was obviously moved by the poem.
“It’s so beautiful,” she repeated. “Sort of like she’s walking on eggshells and if she crushes them she crushes his dreams. His life.”
“Who’s walking on eggshells?” I asked.
I hadn’t realised there was a lady in the poem. I didn’t really understand any of it, ‘embroidered cloths’ and ‘half-light’, but I pretended to sort of get it because it seemed important to Anna.
“My dad loves it too,” she said.
It wasn’t the time to reveal the poems that my stepdad and I enjoyed together.
Poems like this:
Here’s a ridiculous riddle for you:
How many o’s in Woolloomooloo?
Two for the W, two for the m,
Four for the l’s, and that’s plenty of them.
C J Dennis
When you squeeze the tomato sauce bottle
First none’ll come out
And then a lottle
I eat my peas with honey;
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.
That year at school camp Anna and I performed our own adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk from Roal Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was the sort of poem I loved. A poem that rolled along as you read it out loud. A poem that was fun to learn by heart and told a story you could understand and giggle at.
My daughter borrowed Revolting Rhymes from the library last year. As she recited her favourites to me I was back at school, on the small patch of grass beside the veranda, rehearsing for camp with Anna at lunchtime.
The year following our Jack and the Beanstalk item Anna and I composed our own poem to perform. (Poetry wasn’t mandatory for camp concerts. It probably wasn’t very cool either. But we were drawn to it.) We wrote a parody of Clement Clarke Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas , set in the future. I think I can remember the first few lines:
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the dome
Not a machine was stirring, not even a phone
And you in pyjamas and me in my suit
Had just settled down to play Trivial Pursuit
“You have the gift of the rhyme,” said Anna as we wrote it.
“You have a gift for rhyming.”
I’d never been told I had a gift for anything before. I knew I loved rhyme, I had my stepfather to thank for that, but a gift? Well that’s what Anna said and she even appeared to believe it. So when I later came across this poem I understood it perfectly.
How I Got To Be a Princess
Yesterday my friend said,
“You look just like a princess.”
I could not believe him.
Was he talking to someone else?
I looked behind me
in front of me.
I looked under the bed
on top of the closet.
No one else was there.
Again my friend said,
“You look just like a princess.”
He really said it to ME!
I felt all twinkling inside.
That’s how I got to be a princess.
When my rhyming book Baby Gets Dressed was published last year Anna read it to her infant son then said to me, “You’ve always had the gift of the rhyme.”
And I should have answered, “Because you gave it to me.”
Anna made me a rhyming princess.
Recently I emailed Anna, ’What was that poem you used to love about treading on some else’s dreams, like eggshells?’ And swiftly from another state it arrived. Now I can agree with Anna. Honestly. It is beautiful. It just took me twenty-five years to catch up.
The Poetry of Friendship © Katrina Germein 2010
Has poetry been a part of your life too?
*‘How I Got To Be a Princess’ by Bobbi Katz is used with the author’s permission: How ‘I Got To Be a Princess’ from Upside Down and Inside Out: Poems for All Your Pockets by Bobbi Katz. Copyright © 1971.
*This post, The Poetry of Friendship, can also be found at the blog of Australian Children’s Author Sally Murphy to help celebrate the release of her new verse novel Toppling.