Poet’s Notebook: Nursery Rhymes for our times and a reflection

Nursery Rhymes for the times


Hush-a-by baby

On the poor farm

The drought so severe,

Grasshoppers swarm.

When the grasshoppers leave

Nothing green will remain.

Where is the baby?

Where is the rain?


Two, four, six,

Eight, ten,

I’d throw the president

in the pen.

Twelve, fourteen,

sixteen, eighteen;

there’s no one better.

How very obscene!


Fake news, fake news,

President can

Make us feel like idiots

When his shit hits the fan.

Get mad, feel bad,

But make a mental note:

Next time find an honest one

Worthy of our vote.


Jack Paste

Could stand no waste

And his wife could stand no litter,

And so betwixt them both

They left the old world better.


Dickery, dickery, dock,

The mouse ran up the doomsday clock;

When the clock struck the hour

He fell in the flour.

Dickery, dickery dock.


Ring around the rosey

Pockets full of posey,

Mushroom, mushroom!

All fall down.


Lady bug, lady bug,

Fly, fly for shelter.

Hurricane’s blowing

Your kids helter-skelter.


When I was just a little boy

I had but little wit,

‘Tis a long time ago,

And I have no more yet;

For if I had a wit

I would have cared the more

For how the earth was faring

While we were making war.


There is a dark side to the old Mother Goose nursery rhymes. They are also coo-coo and zany. These are mostly dark but so are our times. I had fun writing them — just another way to try to process what is going on in the world today. My instinct, as a poet, is to take things very seriously because I believe we are living on borrowed time. But the closer we are pushed to the brink, the more soul I see in humanity. Why does it take facing our demise to realize that we actually belong here — and we know how to do this!

These poems are an attempt to ease up a bit. Even though the basic message hasn’t changed, writing nursery rhymes, for adults, is a way of reminding myself that we are just trying to grow up as a species. If we don’t make it, we will never know what we are capable of. For example, what would a wise, grown-up president do? What laws would a progressive Congress enact? What kinds of students would a fully funded, up-to-date educational system turn out? It boggles the mind to think. Alas, we may never know.


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