Poetry June 2004

Some Words Inside of Words

(for children and others)
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Audio: Hear Richard Wilbur, former poet laureate of the United States, read "Some Words Inside of Words" (2:12)

The roc's a huge, bold, hungry bird who's able
To eat an elephant. (So says the fable.)
No farmer likes to see one feasting cockily
Right in the middle of his field of broccoli.

At heart, ambassadors are always sad.
Why? Because world affairs are always bad,
So that they're always having to express
"Regret," and "grave concern," and "deep distress."

The barnacle is found in salty seas,
Clinging to rocks in crusty colonies;
And salt, which chemists call NaCl,
Is found inside the barnacle as well.

What could be sillier than for a cow
To try to cross the ocean in a scow?
With such a captain, to my way of thinking,
The wretched vessel would be sure of sinking!
No one should be entrusted with a rudder
Who has two horns and four hooves and an udder.

If a carp is in your carport, go find out
Whether the living room is full of trout
And eels and salamanders, and if there's
A snapping turtle paddling up the stairs.
If that's what's going on, your house (beyond
A doubt) is at the bottom of a pond.

Some snakes are nice to handle, but an asp
Is not the kind to take within your grasp.
That is what Cleopatra did, I fear,
And, as you know, she is no longer here.

Richard Wilbur's most recent collection of poems is Mayflies (2000). He received the Pulitzer Prize for New and Collected Poems (1998).
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