Uncle Bobby says I hatched
from an egg with polka dots.
He says my brother hatched from one
with pink and purple spots.
He says our mother sat on us
for forty-seven weeks
before we pecked our way to freedom
with our pointy orange beaks.
Uncle Bobby says the webs
between our toes dissolved
and then our stubby wings fell out
before our spindly arms evolved.
I think I don’t believe him.
But (just between you and me)?
There’s something strange perched somewhere
up there in our family tree.
About this poem: When my boys were about three and four, the oldest asked if he'd come from an egg. I said yes, and continued with what I thought was a brilliantly simple yet accurate response. My listeners glazed over, then dismissed it as nonsense. So the next time he asked, I said, yes, they'd hatched from eggs alright—Malcolm's had a purple shell and Griffin’s was green. That was much more satisfying for all parties. There is a time and a place for lying, and it is in the home when you have small children.
Writing this poem, I thought about how everyone feels like their family is a little bit (or a lot bit) strange and crazy. In real life, Uncle Bobby is a family friend. His knees do not bend backwards. At least not that I'm aware of.
About this poem: When my niece and nephew were toddlers, my sister, Susanna, thought it would be hilarious if she told them that our parents have tails that no one ever saw because they kept them inside their pants. As my sister and her family lived right down the road, her kids saw a lot of their grandparents. But never enough of them to know if it was true.
Much to my disappointment, Susanna controlled her impulse and never actually told Chloe and Myles that Mom and Dad have tails. But when I had my own children, I wasn't so mature. They only believed me for a little while, but still, IT HAS NEVER BEEN VERIFIED EITHER WAY.
PS: Prehensile is one of my favorite words. Appendages that can curl are prehensile, like an opossum's tail or a monkey's toes. I wish I had a prehensile tail I could write with.
Ms. Betsy's oldest surviving poem is one she wrote in the third grade. "Down in the Sewer" didn't make her popular, but it made a small group of loyal fans very cheerful. Some of the latest poems she's written, "Poems of Galapagos," appeared in Cricket Magazine's July/August 2020 issue. She hopes they'll reach a wider audience than her first poem did, and make more people cheerful...and possibly provoke some thoughts, as well.