Category Archives: Children’s Poetry

The Year I Gave Up Childish Things

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The Year I Gave Up Childish Things

At the age of sixty-eight,
I’ve no wish to equivocate.
Is there a time when childhood ends?
When we give up playful friends?
Cease to lie in grass and dream?
Drink our coffee without cream?
Always do what’s reasonable
in order to avoid life’s trouble?
Say no to candy and dessert?
Cease to giggle, joke and flirt?
If so, I can’t remember mine.
Perhaps when I am sixty-nine!

The prompt: Write about a defining moment in your life when you were forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/when-childhood-ends/

For Red: The Summer Home

The Summer Home

Decaying Farmhouse in Missouri Soybean Field

Photo by okcforgottenman, aka flycatcher

THE SUMMER HOME

When my dad bought the land
where the Big White River and Little White River joined,
I couldn’t believe that we owned land with trees on it.
While he plowed the small field,
I walked the woods and found the abandoned shanty.
Its door was open; in fact it could not shut.
Inside was a mysterious, sweet and fecund smell–
a mouse smell new to me
that I couldn’t stop myself from breathing in.
The mildew and the dust,
the musk of warm linoleum,
every new smell and sight was magic.

I was enchanted by this house emptied
of chairs and tables and beds,
yet full of the accumulated energy of past tame lives
and present wild ones:
the moving of leaf shadows
across the chipped linoleum of the L-shaped kitchen,
the dents on the floor where the kitchen chairs had set,
as though someone had taken care each day
to line up the legs in their holders.
Upstairs I found crayon scribbles halfway up the wall–
the arm reach of a three-year-old.

When I asked about the house,
my dad said that it was our summer home,
and the next time we went to the field,
I brought a broom.

I cleaned out the mouse droppings and the tumbleweeds.
I collected the peeled tile fragments,
imagining gluing them back again.
I washed out a quart canning jar at the pump
and filled it with spring water
and sweet clover,
putting it on the floor
between the kitchen chair holes
in the exact middle of the vanished table.
With the old shirt I found in the corner,
I rubbed mud and river sand
from the linoleum counter tops.
More sand worked as Ajax to scrub out sinks.

All summer long I worked on our summer home,
and for that summer and many summers to come,
I waited in vain for our move to the river house.

I sat on its screened front porch.
Outside the screen grew spearmint and peppermint.
On the top leaf of the tallest branch was a grasshopper,
the kind that left tobacco stains in your hand
when you held it.
All around me were the trees–
the swaying shedding cottonwoods
and scrub chokecherries.
It was a wealth of trees I’d never seen before
in the town where we lived on the bare prairie
nor on the roads we traversed for hundreds of miles
to see a movie or a dentist
or to buy clothes.

Around the screens buzzed the heavy flies,
their motors slow in the heat of July–
all the flies on the outside
wanting to get in
and all the flies on the inside
pressing the screen to get out–
like I longed to get out
to the freedom of trees
where black crows
and dull brown sparrows
rustled their wings
and flew from branch to branch.

In the distance, meadowlarks called
the only birdcall I ever recognized.
No squirrels, no chipmunks; but, rabbits? Yes.
My father said no bears,
but he’d told me the story of Hugh Glass,
mauled by a bear,
walking this river for a hundred miles
past this very joining of the Big and Little White,
in search of help;
and I could imagine one last bear or two
hidden in my woods.

So at night, at home in our winter house in town,
when he told the story I loved the best,
I was the one who discovered the bears’ cottage,
and the cottage was our summer home.
The chairs–too hard, too soft, just right—
I sat upon in turn,
taking great care every time to nestle each leg
back into its correct place on the kitchen linoleum.
And when I lay in the perfect bed of the little bear,
I could touch the crayon markings on the wall.

So when the three bears found me asleep
in the little bear’s room,
they weren’t really very scary;
but I ran anyway,
into my dark and shadowed owl-calling woods,
my woods still echoing the day lit fluted calls of meadowlarks,
their music shaken from the snarled leaves
in the evening breeze.
I ran to trees–
their leaves frosted by moonlight and the Milky Way,
vibrating with the power of the Big Dipper and Orion,
the Seven Sisters and the North Star.

Into the trees
to where I stored my memories
in the frog-croaking depressions under clumps of grass,
in the tangles of Creeping Jenny
and the fluff of dandelions,
in the sand hollows
that crept up from the riverbanks,
in the cocklebur and the chigger-infested grass,
in the crooks of cottonwoods and caves of thickets,
in the tiny cupped palms
of sweet clover and purple alfalfa,
in the wheat grass and the oats and trefoil.

The year my dad decided to expand the field
on the river bottom,
I pleaded, I cajoled, I promised, I prayed
for the summer home
where I had lived for neither one summer
nor one night, in actuality,
but where, nevertheless, I’d had faith
I would someday live.

Of course, there was no saving the woods
and summer house.
It was rich river land, prime for irrigation.
The trees were a waste of soil.
The summer home–everybody’s gentle joke on me.

After the cats and bulldozers were through,
I went with my dad to see
where trees had been ripped out,
the house burned to the ground,
the soil turned and planted
with crops that would build the land.
Their woods now furrowed soil,
the crows and sparrows
had gone to some other shaded place;
the mice, back to the fields.

My former references of trees forever gone,
the present references of sky and fence posts
too wide and new,
I wasn’t sure where my summer home had stood.
The house’s ghost destroyed by the bright sunlight,
the woodland paths replaced by tractor treads,
I watched instead a meadowlark
soar over brown fields and settle on barbed wire,
claiming the new field for its own.
With no house or forest left,
my only shade was chokecherry bushes,
my only chair, the pickup running board.
And so my summers at the river
vanished in the smoke of my summer home
and smoldering tree stumps.

But every night, my woods again threw still shadows
over the summer house,
and I ran once more the corridors of moonlight
cut through dense trees
like parts in a small girl’s hair.
I ran in the wet dew of the condensing summer heat.
I ran on the fuel of my need for magic
and wildness
and rivers
and trees.
I ran fueled by my need to be with something
that lived outside my window
as I passed long nights in my winter house.

It lay in the dark tapping of the trumpet vine branch
against my window
and the crunching of gravel
as someone walked by on the unpaved street–
out past midnight and I couldn’t tell who.
It lay in the pricking of the hair on my arm
as I stuck it out from the bed
and pressed it to the screen.

Always, in town, it lay outside of me–
except for when I floated the paths
of the woods surrounding the summer house,
joining it in dreams,
night after night and then less frequently
until the dreams came once a month
or once a year–
in darkness, always recognized;
but nonetheless forgotten in the light.

So by the time I saw the river field grown lush with corn,
I was a teenager in my first grownup swimsuit,
floating the milky Little White in an inner tube,
down to its junction
with the clear and colder-running water of the Big White,
my best friend next to me,
our cooler full of Coca-Colas and ham salad,
our conversations full of boys and music.

At the border of the field, to get to the river bank,
we crawled over the border of large tree trunks
laid horizontal, half-buried in sand.
I guess I knew they were the bones of my midnight woods.
I guess some part of me felt
the ghost of my summer house.
But, as I lay on my back on the submerged sand bank,
the warm water flowed so sensuously over my shoulders
and down my legs
that my suit seemed to peel itself
from my shoulders, breasts, thighs, calves.
And in a dream I floated the muddy water
of the Little White,
turning in the current
until the water seemed to flow inside of me,
floating me down
to the cool clear water of the Big White,
farther and farther away
from the summer home.

This poem was posted specifically as a response to THIS post on Red’s Wrap.

“The Summer Home” is excerpted from Prairie Moths–Memories of a Farmer’s Daughter, which is available Available on Amazon in Print and Kindle Versions and at Diane Pearl Colecciones and Sol Mexicana in Ajijic, MX

 

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 Just as moths rise from prairie grasses to fly away, so did the author yearn to be free from the very place that nurtured her. Judy Dykstra-Brown’s verse stories and accompanying photographs give a vivid portrayal of rural life in the fifties and sixties, evoking the colors and sounds of the prairie and the longing a child with an active imagination feels for faraway places. From a small child curled up on the couch listening to her father’s stories of homestead days to pubescent fantasies of young itinerant combiners to her first forays into romance in the front seat of a ’59 Chevy, her memories acquire a value in time that she did not acknowledge while living them. Lovers of good poetry and those who miss the magic of childhood will relish Prairie Moths. (Excerpted from a review by Harriet Hart)

 

   Sock Front Cover A Christmas story orangeB30-1 copysunup cover all letters outlined

                                                       On The Run!!!
If a grand slam is, as I think it is, a home run hit over the fence with the bases loaded that thereby also brings in three other runners, then I would say the equivalent in my life would be to find an agent who would find a publisher for all four of my children’s books! I am not a lazy writer, but I am a lazy marketer/promoter.  I would love to find someone to turn that part of my life over to!!!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grand Slam.” In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a grand slam?

A Christmas Gift for You All!

A Christmas Gift for You All!!!

I have been combing my brain trying to think of some gift I could give you all to thank you for your support over the past year and it suddenly occurred to me that I had the perfect one already made. Below, I am presenting my entire Christmas storybook, minus the pictures (except for one) in the hope that you will read it aloud to someone you love this Christmas. 

The other day I got a fan letter from the uncle of a two-year-old who laughs out loud every time they mention Aunt Knox and demanded that it be read to her every night for three nights in a row.  (What has happened since then, I do not know.) I also received a video of an 8-year-old reading it aloud (without faltering over one word) except, with typical 8-year-old humor, he substituted “spanking” for the word “sox” every time, in spite of the protestations of his Grandma. His younger brother thought he was hilarious, so perhaps it was a kid thing.

So, here it is, my present to you.  What you do in the way of altering it to suit your own brand of humor is up to you.  I am also including one illustration so you can get a mental image of Aunt Knox! The cover is pictured on my “Children’s Books” page on this blog if you crave seeing one more illustration by the talented Isidro Xilonzóchitl. There are 16 in all in the book.  He did have fun with the gift-listing ones!!

I also just received his illustrations for our next book, which I hope will be out by April.

Copyright© Judy Dykstra-Brown, 2014. (please do not transmit in its entirety in any form. If you wish to reprint an excerpt, please include a pingback to the original.)

Sock Talk
(A Christmas Story)

by
Judy Dykstra-Brown

I’d heard the story many times
of Great Aunt Knox’s beastly crimes—
toward Mom, who, as a kid like me
was as upset as she could be
whenever she received a box
from her Aunt Knox.

For, in tinsel or in birthday wrap,
in ribbon or in mailing strap,
whatever it came wrapped up in,
whatever the gift could have been,
twice a year from her Aunt Knox,
my mom got sox.

I wished that I could have some talks
with this Aunt Knox.
“Aunt Knox,” I’d say while we were talking,
“a Christmas gift goes in a stocking,
not the other way around.
Stockings never should be found
inside a present,
’cause it’s not pleasant
to wait and wait and wait and wait
for the proper opening date
just to open up a box
of sox!”

Of course, these talks were all imaginary.
I was never even very
sure of whether Great Aunt Knox was still alive.
I didn’t know how long a great aunt could survive.
So when my mother got a letter
from Aunt Knox and said, “I’d better
ask her here, I haven’t seen her for so long.”
“I was wrong,”
I thought, “the dread Aunt Knox
still walks!”
And when Aunt Knox called up to say
she’d visit us for Christmas day,
I knew that this would be the year
I’d bend her ear.

I went to buy Aunt Knox perfume
and put fresh flowers in my room.
I’d even give Aunt Knox my bed
and sleep upon the floor instead.
But it was still hard to believe
that in our house on Christmas Eve
I’d finally have those long-planned talks
with my Aunt Knox.

Blog Sock Talk

I’d never met Aunt Knox before,
but when I met her at the door,
she gave my nose a playful tweak,
and ruffed my hair and kissed my cheek.
(Aunt Knox’s kiss was surely wet.)
She asked me what I hoped to get
for Christmas. Then she pulled me near
and cupped her ear.

“She’s kind of deaf,” my mother said,
So I got right up beside her head
and shouted to my Auntie Knox,
“I wouldn’t mind a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks,

but you know what?” I said, “Aunt Knox,
when I rip into a box,
It seems as bad as chickenpox
to just get sox.”

I asked her if she understood.
She smiled and said she surely could.
She asked what else and bent her head
closer to me, so I said,
“I’d like lots of other things:
paints, crayons, ruby rings,
a horse, a Barbie doll, some books,
a new toy oven that really cooks,
a ball, some blocks, a jigsaw puzzle,
a baby crocodile with muzzle,
bubbles, bracelets, purses, beads,
comic books, sunflower seeds,
a kid’s Mercedes just my size,
or even a Crackerjack surprise
I could accept
except,
please,” (And here I gave her hand a squeeze,)
“please, please,
Aunt Knox,
don’t give me sox!”

She rose and said she’d heard enough,
although she’d missed some of the stuff
I’d said because she’s hard of hearing.
She said with Christmas quickly nearing,
she’d be off to do some shopping,
and she assured me she’d be stopping
for a special gift for me.

And sure enough, beneath the tree
that night there was a package wrapped,
my name on it. I poked and tapped.
I squeezed and shook it, poked its side,
but never could I quite decide
what it was. She wouldn’t say.
She said to wait till Christmas day.
At bedtime, though, she kissed my ear
and said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”

All night I lay upon the floor
listening to Aunt Knox snore.
I didn’t mind the noise at all
’cause I was sure she’d bought the doll.
And just before I fell to sleep
I prayed the Lord Aunt Knox to keep
safe from harm
and dry and warm.

On Christmas morning, while Aunt Knox dressed,
we pushed and prodded, shook and guessed
what was tied up in each bow.
And my Aunt Knox was surely slow.
I ran upstairs three times or four
and knocked and knocked upon her door
while Aunt Knox said that she’d be there
after she had curled her hair.

I thought Aunt Knox was never coming.
My brother drove me crazy drumming.
So when Dad joined in his prum prum prumming
I accidentally elbowed Roy
to the beat of “Little Drummer Boy.”
Then mother almost made me go
upstairs to bed again and so
our Christmas started sort of slow.

Then, finally, Aunt Knox came down
attired in her morning gown
to give my nose another tweak,
to ruff my hair and kiss my cheek—
a wet one, but I didn’t care,
’cause my Aunt Knox was finally there!
I grabbed my present from the tree,
the one Aunt Knox had bought for me.
Again, her words rang in my ear.
She’d said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”

I couldn’t wait to see in it.
I wondered what could be in it.
Perhaps it was a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks.
But when I opened up that box,
my Aunt Knox
had bought me sox!!!!

A dozen pair were there inside—
sox long,sox short, sox thin and wide.
The clock advanced by tics and tocks
as I glared up at mean Aunt Knox,
but I couldn’t think of a word to say
appropriate to Christmas day.

“Well, try them on,” my mother said,
but I just nudged the box instead.
I’d had such fantasies of dolls
and ruby rings and bowling balls.

Then Aunt Knox came and kissed my head.
She’d meant to give a doll, she said,
till she remembered that in our talks
she was sure I’d mentioned sox
many times, while she could not recall
whether I had mentioned doll
at all.

“Why don’t you try them on, my dear?”
my Aunt Knox asked with awful cheer.
And she was grinning ear to ear
as she held out some sox with seals
emblazoned on their toes and heels.
I took them as my brother Roy
gleefully unwrapped his toy.
The robot that both speaks and walks
was what he got from Great Aunt Knox.

“Do try them on,” my mother said,
but I just stood and hung my head.
I could have gotten something great.
Instead, these sox would be my fate
forever, like a family curse.
I tried to think of something worse
but couldn’t. And I rued the day I’d had those talks
with my Aunt Knox.

Meanwhile, Mom was rifling through
sox red and yellow, pink and blue
to pull a pair of lumpy sox
from the bottom of my Christmas box.
“Why don’t you try these on?” she said.
The sox were gray with purple thread
around the legs—
the very dregs
of that whole gruesome box
of sox.

So I pulled on the seal-decked sox
held out to me by Auntie Knox.
I craved the robot Roy had got,
but sox were not too bad, I thought,
and clicked my heels and did a dance
to try to give those sox a chance.
I turned three somersaults in all,
then slid my sox on down the hall.
I stuck my sox up in the air
to show old Roy I didn’t care.

But pretty soon I said, “You know
there’s something in this stocking’s toe.”
I pulled it off and felt inside—
something round and not too wide,
something empty in the middle.
I pulled in out to solve the riddle
and while I thought I’d find some “thing,”
I found instead a ruby ring

Well, then I dove into that box,
reaching into piles of sox,
shaking out sox thin and wide,
seeing what could be inside.
I found a ball, some blocks, some beads,
a Barbie doll, sunflower seeds,
a diary with keys and locks,
a puzzle and a music box.
I shook out sox both short and long.
I shook out sox all morning long.
I finally shook out so much stuff
that even I had had enough—
almost.

I was only six back then,
but now that I am nearly ten,
every year my Auntie Knox
sends Roy bowling balls or blocks
She sent my dad a cuckoo clock.
She even sent my mom a wok.
Twice.
Sometimes she sends me something nice—
a robot or a music box—
but if I’m lucky, my Aunt Knox
sends me SOX!!!!!

And to all a good night!!

Shooing with Tongue on the Tongue of a Shoe

To celebrate my 400th posting, I am going to follow the “Poets and Writers” prompt instead of the WordPress one. To see their weekly prose and poetry prompts, go here: http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises

DuckieUglyWaking-1

                 McPeevish McPue on a good day

The Prompt: Whimsical Creature—This week, write a whimsical, nonsensical poem about a creature you’ve dreamt up. Try to let go of the meanings associated with the words you use every day when describing this creature. Instead, use words as springboards for weird associations, as colors in a vast mural. Let your mind run wild and hang on for the ride.

 

Shooing with Tongue on the Tongue of a Shoe

There once was a grouch named McPeevish McPue
who spent his whole life on the tongue of a shoe
where he shooed away flintocks* and floogles* and stuff.
As a matter of fact, he would get downright rough.

 He would beat them with bagels and flog them with floggles
from the foot of their feet to the top of their toggles.
Then he bopped them again every minute or two
till those flintocks and floogles were beat black and blue.

But they just wouldn’t leave until McPue had sung
a rock-a-bye ballad with only one lung.
Then they leapt and they lithered until they were gung.
Now McPeevish McPue only shoos with his tongue!

*Floogles: fairy folk who get even with grouches by spraying foot odor into their shoes daily.

*Flintocks:
I’m not completely sure what flintocks are, other than the fact that they drive McPeevish McPue crazy. I’m counting on my readers to tell me more about them.

 

The Children’s Hour

Okay, I am writing this down by heart, as I remember it.  Then I’ll find a copy and check how well I remember it, putting corrections in parentheses.  Why do I remember this poem that was unfashionable even when I memorized it?  One of her favorites, it was chosen by my mother for me to recite in a contest.  I won with it at school, county and district level and then went to state level where I did not win.  Probably my wrong choice to pronounce “lower” in a manner so as to rhyme with “hour!”

Okay, by heart, mind you, here is the poem:

The Children’s Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
when the night is beginning to lower,
comes a pause in the day’s occupations
that is known as the children’s hour.

I hear in the chamber above me,
the patter of little feet,
the sound of a door that is opened
and voices, soft and sweet.

By my lamplight, I see in the darkness (from my study I see in the lamplight)
descending the broad hall stair
grave Alice and laughing Allegra,
and Edith with golden hair.

A whisper and then a silence,
yet I know by their laughing (merry)  eyes
they are plotting and planning together
to take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
a sudden raid from the hall,
by three doors left unguarded,
they enter my chamber wall.

They climb up into my turret,
o’er the arms and back of my chair.
When I try to escape, they surround me.
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
their arms about me entwine,
till I feel like the Bishop of Bingen
in his round tower (mouse-tower) by the Rhine.

Do you think, oh blue-eyed banditos, (banditti)
because you have scaled the wall,
such an old mustache as I am
is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress
and will not let you depart
but keep you captive forever (But put you down into the dungeon)
in the round-tower of my heart.

And there  will I keep you forever,
yes forever and a day
till the walls have crumbled to ruin
and mouldered, in dust, away.

My mother told me her mother used to read this poem to her and her five sisters.  (Her two brothers were probably off pulling pranks somewhere.)  Whenever her mother would recite the line, “And Edith with golden hair” my mom would cry, because she had a sister named Edith, and my mom wanted golden hair as well.

Although I only met her once, when I was three, I believe my Grandmother was a kind soul and I can’t remember whether my mother told me or I imagined that my Grandmother then altered the line to read, “and Eunice with golden hair” as well.

Now, as to the lines or words I got wrong (after fifty-two years, as I believe I recited this when I was eleven) I am fairly sure that my mother changed that entire line I got wrong, thinking it wasn’t appropriate for a girl of 11 to say the words, “But put you down into the dungeon.” Mother knew best, even over such an illustrious poet as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a fact that probably stunned the judges and led to my eventual upset as South Dakota  poetry champion of outmoded rhyme.

Now, please recite your biggest feat of memory for me in comments!!!

A Message for Henry Selick

The Prompt: Make It Count—You’ve been given the opportunity to send one message to one person you wouldn’t normally have access to (for example: the President. Kim Kardashian. A coffee grower in Ethiopia). Who’s the person you choose, and what’s the message?

A Message for Henry Selick

In our age of information—
and also instant confirmation
of every little truth and fact,
it’s necessary to react
with some protection, I understand.
The famous of us take a hand
to protect themselves from the clamoring band
of those who call for their attention
to win a conference or audition,
an interview or invitation
to meet for food or a libation
as a means to talk about
ideas that we have need to flout.
And so I see why I could not
reach the person whom I sought
to pitch my Christmas storybook.
The plot is good. I have a hook.
The characters are funny and
the artist has an expert hand.
I even know the person who
I wish to do my pitching to.
But he’s grown famous through the years
and our acquaintance is in arrears—
his movies scarier by far
than any of my stories are.
But readers tell me that in a pinch,
my Christmas story beats the Grinch!
A Christmas classic the film would be
if only Hollywood could see
the book that no one yet has seen
because my Facebook notes have been
seen by no one and I have not
a way to advertise my lot.
So here I make a heartfelt plea
for Henry Selick to contact me!

(To further jog your memory:
Your wife Heather had a job
teaching with my husband Bob.)

The book is Sock Talk: A Christmas Story, and you can see more about it here.


Blog Sock Talk