|Feeding the birds. Hilda van Stockum, 1934.|
Courtesy of the Estate of the Author.
1. The Bird
My teacher had a cage with a wild thrush
He had caught it when swinging on a bush
And he smiled when he showed it off to me
But I only begged him to let the thrush free.
For why did God give birds their wings
And a sky full of blue deep air
If they were to sit upon a stick
And hang in a cage above a chair?
If they can't even stretch their quills
And take one deep long breath,
But have to nod upon their stick
And die a creeping death.
Outside they know the the trees – the clouds
They have their friends like me
But here the dusky little room
Is all that they can see.
And they can't even say a word
To tell how much they long
For people smile and say “How sweet!”
To their broken-hearted song.
I told my teacher and he was still,
And looked into my eyes;
And then he took the cage and let
The bird free to the skies.
2. The Mother
Everyone in turn is my only mite
My sweetest babe
My dearest sprite
Everyone in turn is my fondest boast
And the one that I prize the most.
Sometimes it is my blue-eyed boy
Sometimes my slender girl
Sometimes I find my greatest joy
Is my infant's golden curl.
But always there's one who's my special pet
My darling babe
My precious brat
And always there's one in my lap who'll start
To climb into my heart.
Yes, sometimes it is my eldest one
Who can smile so gay
And run so fast
And sometimes it is the middle one
And sometimes the one born last.
3. The Cold
I had a cold, a sneezy cold
A snuffly teazy wheezy cold
The doctor said to take a spoon
Of medicine morning night and noon.
I liked the task, I liked the smell
I surely thought I'd soon be well,
And be once more upon my feet
Like other children on the street.
But oh! The cough, it lingered on
I waited and it wasn't gone!
No wonder for how could a spoon
Three times a day expel it soon?
I took the bottle to my bed
And when my mother came, I said,
“Now I'll be better, sure enough!
For I have swallowed all the stuff!”
On Sundays I may wear my hat
With posies on the crown
And I may put white socks on
For we're going into town
We're riding on the silver bus
We feel it throb and lurch
We'll get out when it stops at last
For we must go to Church.
On Sundays when the bells ring
I wear my whitest dress
And walk on tiptoes up the aisle
From very holiness.
For God is listening and He likes
The Stillness in His house
That's why I always hold my breath
And tiptoe like a mouse.
5. Running Away
My Mother wished to wash me, but I fled
into the night where stars shone o'er my head
I would not go into the lamplit realm
Where the bath reigned with curling wisps of steam
No, on my back I dropped on heaving ground
Where shrub to shrub gave forth its whispered sound.
And all the dazzling lights on Heaven's bow
Held fast my eyes till they no more let go.
Was I still looking up? Or did I swing
In peril o'er a gulf where night was king?
Was I but lightly clinging to Earth's extremity
Whilst looking down the abyss of Eternity?
It dizzied me, my hands grasped the green turf -
I feared to move lest I fall off the earth.
And what a breathless fall that fall would be
Till I struck bottom in Eternity.
I turned a summersault. My nose pressed in the grass
And under me I felt the earth's big mass
Faithful once more I felt it's firm embrace
And the sky rose to its accustomed place.
I ran into my yellow lamplit home
Where Mother waited with the brush and comb.
And where the bath no longer seemed a bane
I was so happy to be safe again!
6. The Princess
When I am grown I`'ll marry a Prince
With a white and tender face
He'll ride on a black and gleaming horse
And he'll wear a cloak with lace.
I'll be his Queen and I will live
In a Castle near the sea
The roses will bloom and everyone
Will come to bow to me.
That's why I wouldn't listen
When Jim sat on the gate
And promised he would marry me
If I would only wait.
7. My Rabbits
I had two snuffly rabbits
That flip-flopped over the place
With nibbly-nobbly habits
And lumpity lumpity pace.
They were my very ownest
To do with as I pleased
I used to feed them grasses
And watch them when they sneezed.
I called the male one Adam
He was the first I had
The female one was Eva
I fed her bits of bread.
One day I found my Adam
All stiffened in his shed.
His eyes were round and glassy
And I saw that he was dead.
It might have been the cold
It might have been the rain
But I never saw my Adam
Go hopping round again.
I took him on my knees
And I sadly stroked his fur
Which was as soft and silky
As though he could still stir.
His little eyes had looked at me
Only the day before
And he had eaten cabbage leaves
And wheedled me for more.
Once Adam and Eve were less than this
Stiff form upon my knees;
Yet they became a man and wife
Though God's enchanting breeze.
Perhaps if I just blew a whiff
Into his pink still nose
A miracle might happen
And it might be that he rose!
I blew and blew but only
The fur stirred on his back.
No light came to his glassy eye
No life in his limbs, alack!
I wept and scattered my tears upon
The stiff and breathless clod
And for the first, most bitter, time
I knew I was not God.
8. The Hut
We built a hut, my brother and I,
Over a sandy pit
With sticks that bowed and met above
And a sheet to cover it.
We sat and all around the rain
Came rushing, roaring down
We said if we were out in it
That we would surely drown.
We were happier than the birds
Perched up in the tree
And richer than kings and princes
In our splendid hut, were we.
And though the drops splashed freely
Through the thin sheet from the sky
We still sat gladly shivering
Believing we were dry.
9. The Master
I have a Master, his face is pale
And stern and a little sad
But when he smiles his face lights up
His very nose is glad.
I love to watch that smile of his
Whilst bending o'er my slate
And when his smiles are slow to come
I wait and wait and wait.
But once I brought a funny book
Which I lent him for awhile
That morning I couldn't do my sums
From watching teacher smile.
10. The Friend
I wish I had a bosom friend
Who loved me best of all,
Who'd give me all her books and dolls
And never scold or bawl.
I wish I had a bosom friend
To sit with in a tree
To tell her all my secrets
And what I want to be.
To talk to in soft whispers
About angels wings and death
And the wonders of a baby
And how it draws its breath.
I wish I had a bosom friend
To walk with arm in arm
When the sun is dropping down to sea
And the evening weaves its charm.
I want a girl who'll understand
And think the way I do
But she must always love me most
And never walk with you.
11. The Walk
When I have to go out with a lot of people
I always lag behind
And then nurse is angry and tells me to hurry
But I don't mind.
For the noise of the trampling boots is too loud
And the tattling talk
All the fairies are frightened and fly away
Where grown people walk.
I want to go where the dust has settled
Back on the street
And twittering birds return to their branches
With merry tweet tweet!
I want to see ghostly wings of fairies
Flit through the trees
Their floating cobwebby veils all misty
And light on the breeze.
Then I walk very softly and I think
That perhaps I'm a fairy too,
And soon will have wings and fly in the night
And drink the morning dew.
That is what I would like the most
To be born in the cup
Of a wet white flower in the light of the moon
And forever to sup
With the fragile fairies on honey and mist
And call each blossom my home
And forever to own the sweet twilight hours
And the night's vast dome.
Well I would sleep, rocked by the night-wind
On a thin reed
I would live like a spirit, transparent and cool
Without aching or need.
And when I wished I could open my wings
And soar up ahead
As light as a bubble to dizzying heights
Of the sky blue and glad.
I wouldn't need mother or father or friend
Like a bloom
I would be enough to myself with plenty
That's why I like to watch fairies a -flit
Through the trees,
For one day the miracle may happen and I may
Be one of these.
And that's why I lag and loiter behind
And don't mind.