I have a poem in my baby book called “The Playful Moon” that’s always made me feel special because Alton Danielson wrote it just for me. Part of Alton’s legacy in my life is my poem-making to celebrate birth. Over eighteen years, I’ve offered thirty-seven poems of welcome to thirty-seven new human beings. The poems are reflections of the parents’ beliefs, passions, and even settings when the babies arrive, but they go beyond honoring the parents. The poems are a Word spoken over new life, a small prophecy or truth I hope will inform and secure the child’s growth as an individual. As a container for things I know the parents wish, but may not be confident expressing, the poems are an excuse to repeat the blessing again and again, in a family ritual of reading that quietly doubles as a prayer. Here are five of my favorites. (I don’t work much in rhyming verse, but I’ll indulge when children are involved.) I offer these as example and inspiration for ways to welcome people to the world.
Sometimes I, Too, Become A Star
for Beatrice Sarah
Sometimes I think like the moon, she crooned,
and shut one eye with a wink.
Then I look down like a telescope
and milk is all I will drink.
Sometimes I think like the sky, she sighed,
and lay down flat on the ground.
Then I can feel birds flying in me
and I never make a sound.
Sometimes I think like the sun, she beamed,
and hugged her arms to her chest.
Then I make all the warmth in the world
and love all the green things best.
Sometimes I think Aurora, she danced,
and twirled in a blurring spin.
Then I am empty, save for the light,
and pink is all that comes in.
Sometimes, she whispered, there’s something else,
when sun, sky, and moon won’t do.
Then I practice my fanciest trick,
the one I’ll secret to you.
When I cast my arms and legs way out
and stretch to my farthest far,
all the people makes wishes on me,
and then I become a star.
Tea Party Me
for Abigail Kathleen
I’m very demure and I’m very polite.
I bow to my left and I pass to my right.
I ask if Miss Duck prefers one lump or three.
I’m dainty and gracious; I’m Tea Party Me.
In tipping the spout of my green-striped teapot,
I don’t slosh a drip and I don’t splash a spot.
I say, Mister Bear, shall I pour some more tea?
I’m quite a good hostess as Tea Party Me.
I hand round the cups with my pinky held high.
Sir Croc smiles miles when I offer mud pie.
I’m mannerly, thoughtful, good-natured, and free
to be my best self when I’m Tea Party Me.
I’m not always friendly. Sometimes I am rude.
Sometimes I am frightful and play with my food.
Sometimes I get angry, and spill on the floor.
Sometimes I feel sad like I’m outside a door.
Sometimes I feel torn like the hem of a dress.
Sometimes I am only the awful-est mess.
But I know that God sees the best in my heart.
He knows all I am and He still thinks I’m art.
So I pour Him my worries all sour and hot.
I serve Him my Yes and He cleans up my Not.
And He and I know, in fact, we both agree,
when He looks my way, He’ll see Tea Party Me.
Simon & the Snail
for Simon Lawrence
One afternoon in the misty Northwest,
a snail was doing his own level best
to cross a backyard – he was taking a rest –
when he met a boy named Simon.
Simon saw quickly the snail was slow.
His shell wasn’t big. His body was low.
How would he get where he wanted to go?
wondered a boy named Simon.
Aren’t you mad at how long this will take?
Aren’t you sad at the time others make?
Aren’t you worried your shell’s a mistake?
questioned this boy named Simon.
Surely not, smiled the snail, I’ve got a surprise
that keeps me from fretting my speed or my size.
In fact, it’s a secret that makes me quite wise.
he said to the quizzical Simon.
Just because birds can fly, I’m not sad about me.
The hop in a frog doesn’t make me less free.
I’m not worried I’m wrong since fish swim in the sea.
Truth began dawning on Simon.
Why look at others to know you’re okay?
There’s plenty to win in the wide world each day.
And who is to say you weren’t made the best way?
No one, and peace came to Simon.
So on slid the shell and the smile of the snail
as he blazed away, at his pace, his own trail,
leaving behind the keen truth of this tale:
Simon need only be Simon.
for Jonathan Edward, Isaiah 43:19
Imagine a mailbox, empty and cold.
Imagine the hours too heavy to hold.
When days seemed outdated, when fortunes seemed few,
that was the day we were sent something new.
Delivered on time, when we craved it the most
came a red and white polka-dot box in the post.
We lifted the lid and inside lay in store
a thought we had never considered before.
Alongside the box came a letter all sealed
with hearts on the flap and the packet revealed
a future, a pip to grow into a plant
that would leaf out in how instead of in can’t.
A tube also came, a long parcel in brown.
Rolled neatly inside, once we wiggled it down,
was courage that flapped like a flag in the fight,
the pluck that unfurled to stand up for what’s right.
It came in three packages: heart, mind and soul.
It came in its time, in ways we can’t control.
It came from I AM – what we need, He will do,
and we can be sure of that since He sent You.
You are the freshness and You are the spring,
You are the novel and avant-garde thing,
You are our package, our present, our clue
that God is at work as He does something new.
You’ll have new ideas. You’ll plant a new seed.
You’ll have a new strength that will serve a new need.
And even on days when you think all’s been done,
You’re not just one more, You are God’s chosen one.
Miss Maya and the Grownups
for Griffin White
“Miss Maya, you oughtn’t,” the grownups would cry,
with their scowl and their frown and their old grownup sigh.
“You oughtn’t to leap and you oughtn’t to jump
and you oughtn’t to run down those stairs, thump thump thump!
You oughtn’t to get finger-paints on your dress!
Really, you’re making a terrible mess!”
Miss Maya just smiled as she tossed her arms high,
and thought, “These all-growns simply don’t know my Why.
They don’t understand how it feels to be free
and push mud with your toes and to love being Me.
They seem to forget how air feels on your tongue,
how loudly the songs that you sing must be sung.”
“Miss Maya, you oughtn’t,” the grownups would chant,
with their shouldn’ts and couldn’ts, their don’t and their can’t.
“You oughtn’t to question the height of the sun
or the depth of the sea or the way things are run.
You oughtn’t make waves and you oughtn’t to fuss,
you ought to stay quiet and grow up like us.”
Miss Maya just danced and then took a deep bow,
and thought to herself, “I will show them my How.
How springing and flinging grows into a smile,
how talking to birds keeps you un-mad a while.
These grownups can’t see things that far from the dirt,
up there where the world looks too much like hurt.
And worst of all things they can’t seem to recall
is that words from small people are wisest of all.”
So Miss Maya took “oughtn’t” and turned it to “may.”
She giggled at “don’t” and it blushed to “okay.”
Maya tickled the grownups way down near their feet
and they all asked big questions ‘cause answers taste sweet.