The insanity of my fifth grade poetry project

As some might have heard, I'm getting ready for a big move. This means that I've been digging through old boxes to determine what to keep and what needs to be tossed. In other words, something I should have done years ago but put off until it became critical. I've culled most of my old school items, but the book for my fifth grade poetry project is just too delightfully absurd to throw away. Where else can you find nihilistic clean limericks (with almost zero adherence to proper metric conventions of the form to boot!) about people falling down stairs and fluffy poems about cats nestled together in a single volume? And why would there be a longer free verse poem about Harriet Tubman amidst such poems?

cover obviously drawn by a child, with a tabby cat being rained on, the word 'Poems' written in the center, a staircase, a baseball bat, and a golden leg

The teachers' aides at my elementary school must have been obsessed with the laminating and binding machines. And also apparently had an unlimited supply of plastic binding combs. And isn't the way I used to sign my name awesome?

First up, some free-standing limericks. Fifth grade me clearly didn't care about meter.

Poems, page 1

Peg and the Gold Leg

There once was a girl named Peg.
She fell down the stairs carrying an extra leg.
The leg was gold,
And really old.
Peg lost the gold leg.

The plot of this poem sounds suspiciously similar to an episode of Bottom.

Poems, page 2

A Cat Named Bat

There once was a cat named Bat,
Who really loved to chat.
She sat on a park bench,
but with a wrench.
She beat up a bat named Cat.

Did I mention that one of the nihilistic clean limericks also has a fluffy cat theme? Although stairs are not involved in this one.

I think these next two pages were supposed to be haikus, but whatever they are, they're a total snoozefest.

Poems, page 3


Raindrops all around,
Raindrops are on the earth and,
Raindrops on the ground.


Tree, home to pretty
birds, animals, and others,
and also pretty.

Meh, nothing much to see here, move along.

Poems, page 4

Fieldmouse, you must hide,
hide from the cat attacking,
hide you underground.

The balls of fuzz are,
going to their mother dear,
to find their dinner

Okay, "Fieldmouse" almost redeems these two pages of alleged haikus.

Now some cinquains. My favorite single verse poem from this collection is in this section.

Poems, page 5

Soft, Furry
Eating, Playing, Sleeping
Show love for you

Hard, Grey
Hardens, Stays, Cracking
Hurts when I fall

Yes, fifth grade me, I get it, you really want a cat. Don't worry, in three and a half more years, you'll finally get your first cat, and a year after that you'll get your proper Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit (a.k.a. adopting a stray who happened to be pregnant). By the time you reach 30, you'll have spent way more years living with a swarm of cats than living without that swarm.

And "Sidewalk" is a work of sheer, unadulterated genius. If I ever become a famous writer and someone asks me what I consider to be my greatest literary achievement, I will tell them that it is this poem I wrote at the age of ten. It speaks to the harsh realities of urban life, and the essential duality (both permanency and impermanency) of things. I want this one on a t-shirt.

Poems, page 6

Useful in
Speaking, Writing, Reading
Help me express myself

Long, Skinny
Playing many notes
Love playing a trombone

The nerdy, sycophantic page. And you have one guess as to which instrument I played in school band.

The next two pages are apparently a format called "sneaky poems", if the second page of this section can be trusted. The final line of each is written with a funny offset, which is to imply that it's not actually part of the poem, but rather the subject of the poem that you're supposed to guess. I'm certain this was the way I was required to format them, because obviously they would have been better if the subjects were either revealed on the back of the page, or upside down at the bottom of the page.

Poems, page 7

Red hair
Reading, Writing
Easy to find in a crowd
(Sarah Ellis)

Tall man
Teaching, talking
Drawn by 3 boys in a poster.
(Mr. Szabat)

Those stains definitely aren't coffee, because no one in my family drank coffee at the time. I hope those stains are Dr. Pepper, because I don't want to entertain other notions.

I wish I could remember the poster referenced in the poem about my fifth grade English teacher. I'm certain my friend Jeffrey was probably involved. As for Mr. Szabat himself, he was known for a warped sense of humor (although it's obviously been too long for me to remember any of his jokes). I'm certain he played an important role in the development of my sense of humor. If nothing else, the fact that this project was for his class and not some other teacher undoubtedly influenced my bizarre subject matter for this book.

Poems, page 8

Old Glory
Waved, sewn
The colors are red, white & blue.
(American Flag)

Clever Poems
Written, Read
They sneak up on you
(Sneaky Poems)

Whoever says you're not a real patriot unless you're hauling a huge American flag on your pickup truck has clearly never read the first poem on this page.

The second poem is so ridiculously meta.

And now we reach the free verse piece about Harriet Tubman. I don't know why I included this poem in the book in the first place, since the note in pencil on the first page of the poem clearly indicates that this was written for the gifted group (don't ask what the acronym for the group means...I don't think we were ever told) and not for this class. The gifted group read a biography of Harriet Tubman, which is the raison d'etre for this piece. I think fifth grade me thought she was being really deep with this piece, and must have apparently been proud of it, since she didn't need to include it in this book and yet did so anyway. Although this is a well meaning tribute written by a child, I'm certain parts of it might be inadvertently problematic in wording (the first stanza definitely could have been put better, and the last stanza is probably would have been a much better work without those two stanzas). But I feel it'd be disingenous of me to not acknowledge my past (however warty), so here it is.

Poems, page 9

Harriet, Now You Flee

Harriet, Harriet, now you flee;
flee from Miss Susan,
flee from your master,
flee from Doc Thompson, flee from your master

Harriet, Harriet, now you flee;
flee with your brothers,
help them flee now,
and with their beloved,
help them flee now.

This page makes it a bit more obvious that this book was written with ballpoint pen, because the aside comment is obviously in pencil.

Poems, page 10

Harriet, Harriet, now you flee;
flee with many others,
flee up to freedom,
flee with all sizes,
flee up to freedom.

Harriet, Harriet, now you flee;
flee not to the North, flee safely,
flee but to Canada,
flee safely.

Hopefully it's obvious that in the latter verse on this page, I meant the northern US and not the cardinal direction. Fifth grade me understood geography well enough to know that Canada is even further north than the northern US.

Poems, page 11

Harriet, Harriet, now you flee;
flee away from the others,
flee from the Earth,
flee for it's 1913,
flee from the Earth.


Soft and furry,
playful, catching,
Don't pull the tail!

Poor Harriet. The last stanza of her poem has to share a page with the first stanza of "Cats". That's right, "Cats" continues on the next page.

And here's the two remaining stanzas of "Cats". The whole poem would have fit on a single page, so I really don't know why its start had to share a page with the end of the Harriet Tubman poem.

Poems, page 12

Siamese, American Shorthair,
Turkish Angora, Longhair, Persian, & More,
All shapes and sizes.

Stiripes, swirls, solids, bi, tri, quad colored,
Red-orange, yellow, orange, lilac, blue, browns and tans, black.
Many Colors.

'Stiripes'? And we were doing so well.

(Also, I think that word before 'colored' is 'quad', not 'and'. But you might have been able to figure out it's not 'and' if you've noticed that kid me used a funny ampersand in place of 'and' after commas. Kid me also hadn't developed a firm opinion on the Oxford'll notice some poems use the Oxford comma, some don't. I'm firmly pro Oxford comma as an adult.)

This collection concludes with the four page epic saga of Jack and Yak, told in a series of limericks, some of which deliberately violate the rhyming pattern. It is a tale for the ages, of two rivals who keep falling down stairs. And one of them was apparently ruler of the world.

Poems, page 13

Jack & Yak

There once was a man named Jack.
He fell down the stairs with a Yak.
The Yak was grey,
and Jack fell the wrong way.
Jack broke his back.
(At the hospital...)

There once was a man named Yak.
He fell down the stairs with Jack.
They were tingling,
and also they were tickling.
They both broke a back.
(Back home...)

I'm not certain why yak is capitalized in the first stanza, since the first stanza clearly refers to a literal yak and not Jack's nemesis.

As for the second stanza, I'm really wondering what fifth grade me thought she meant. The bits about tingling and tickling sound pretty dirty, but I don't think that was the intended meaning. I think I've inadvertently created the first pornographic limerick for people who have a falling down the stairs fetish.

Poems, page 14

There once was a man named Jack.
He fell down the stairs with a tack.
The tack was sharp as a pin.
It made a loud din, of Jack
breaking his back.
(Jack's Bungee Inc.)

There once was a man named Jack.
He fell off a bridge with a Yak.
The Yak was black,
and hid in a gunny sack.
That was the end of Jack's Bungee Inc.
(Fishing at Hudson Bay)

You might notice that the titles for the stanzas at the top of the page are at the bottom of the preceding page, with the exception of the first stanza that has no title.

I have no idea why "of Jack" at the end of the fourth line wasn't the beginning of the fifth would have at least kept that stanza in proper rhyming pattern. And "Jack's Bungee Inc." obviously doesn't fit the rhyming pattern at all.

Poems, page 15

There once was a great decay,
Of Hudson Bay.
Fish showed their pride,
and also they died.
This was over in a day.
(Jack's death)

There once was a man named Yak.
He wanted what belonged to Jack.
Yak pushed Jack off the stairs,
and Jack lost all his hairs.
Jack died in a pile of gak.
(Yak's Inheritance)

"Fishing at Hudson Bay" clearly doesn't belong with the rest of this poem, although I'm really digging the 'pride'/'died' bit.

And Jack died in the most bizarre manner ever. You'd think it'd be massive internal injuries that did him in, but no, it was apparently acute onset alopecia and a vat of gak.

Poems, page 16

There once was a man named Yak.
He got what belongs to Jack.
He got the world,
and evily ruled.
Jack Jr. killed Yak.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up there! You're telling me that Jack not only used to rule the world, but also had a son? Why wasn't this mentioned sooner in this epic? Why did "Fishing at Hudson Bay" make the cut, but not stanzas about Jack getting married, and Mrs. Jack giving birth? Okay, I don't think we need those stanzas to figure out what happened, since both events had to involve at bare minimum someone falling down the stairs, if not a literal yak as well. Jack Jr.'s birth probably involved him luging down the stairs.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure through the insanity of my fifth grade poetry book. Someone must have been slipping me drugs against my knowledge when I wrote these poems: it's the only rational explanation.