Phyllis Gotlieb (1926-)
2laughing, talking where the ball bounces
3in the forgotten schoolyard
4one hand, the other hand; one foot, the other foot
5you know the one
6(Saturday Afternoon Kid
9clap front, clap back
10ballthwack on the boardfence
11front and back, back and front
12arms of old beeches reaching over drop their
13sawtooth leaves in your hair
14 (as I was sitting beneath a tree
15 a birdie sent his love to me
16 and as I wiped it from my eye
17 I thought: thank goodness cows can't fly)
21until you're out
22the shadows turn, the light is long
23and while you're out you sing this song
24 this year, next year, sometime, never
25 en roule-en ma boule roule-en
26 we'll be friends for ever and ever
27 Pimperroquet, le roi des papillons
28 se faisant la barbe, il
29 se coupa le menton
30 une, une, c'est la lune
31 deux, deux, c'est le jeu
32seven, eight trois, trois -- c'est à toi!
34ten a-laura echod, shtaim
35Secord hamelech bashomayim
36 echod, shtaim, sholosh, ar-ba ...
37 whereja get the cold, sir?
38 up at the North Pole, sir;
39 what were ya doin there, sir?
40 catchin Polar bears, sir;
41 how many didja catch, sir?
42 one, sir; two, sir
43 Salome was a dancer
44 she did the hootchykootch
45 she shook her shimmy shoulder
46 and showed a bit too much
47 my boyfriend's name is Fatty
48 he comes from Cincinnati
49 my boyfriend's name is Jello
50 he comes from Monticello
52 que cheleque palesto
53 que jingale lestingo
54 ini ini maini mo
55 and this is the way you played
57ordinary throw the ball against the fence, catch it
58moving same thing, don't move your feet laughing
59mustn't show your teeth talking
60shut, your, mouth
61 one hand that's how you
62catch it the other hand
63one foot pick it up, you dope the other foot
65clap front, clap back
66 front&back, back&front
67tweedle with your hands like twiddling your thumbs
69twydle underhand curtsey, salute
71 catch it and
72start from moving
73over the whole thing without
74stirring from the spot slap
75your leg for one foot wave your
76arms for roundabout on through laughing ononon
77TILL YOU GET TO BIG MOVING !!!
78particle, atom, molecule, world
79solar system, galaxy, supergalaxy, cosmos
80but start with small, the ball on the wall
81that's how it went, and begin again:
82 my boyfriend's name is Tonto
83 he comes from New Toronto
84 with twenty-four toes
85 and a pickle on his nose
86 and this is the way my story goes:
91 like a slug
92 and grew without
93 a thought or wish to
94 something like a fish a
95 frog a bird a pig a golly-
96 wog and ultimately red and
97 born a blueblack head or
98 peppercorn or bald or
99 blind or idiot or
104 I = I
105 I? = ?I
107 ?I = I?
108 I = not
110 = (s/ m)uch
111 = notme
112(rockabye baby the cradle is hard
113yer pa got it outa the junkman's backyard)
114the thing that I thought was the moon
115turned out to be Mother's face
116or Sister's or Brother's or Dad's or the cat's
117-- there's notme all over the place
118(but I want the world's food in my belly
119I want all the things I can see
120I want all the toys in the world in my arms
121and I want all the arms around ME)
122 black skin, drum belly
123 little stick leg
124 Papa paint the sores on
125 hold your hands and beg
127What shall we name the baby?
128William? or James? or John?
129Matthew? or Mark? or maybe
131 sticks and stones can break my bones
132 but names'll never hurt me
133 and when I'm dead and in my grave
134 you'll be sorry for what you called me
137ask me agin
138and I'll tell ya the same ...
139... the secret power, the personal key
140the three golden hairs in the forehead of the Giant
141the stone in the yoke in the egg in the duck
142in the rabbit in the basket in the chest beneath the Oak
143in the Oak of the Golden Bough
144in the magical Mistletoe:
145'In the whole of the East Indian Archipelago
146the etiquette is the same
147no-one utters his own name...'
148 Sha-ame, sha-ame!
149 everybody knows yer na-ame!
152wheredya live? comment t'appelle tu?
153down'a lane je m'appelle comme mon pere
154whatcher number? et ton pere?
155cucumber mon pere s'appelle comme moi
156it's Dinger Bell and Dusty Miller, Moishe Tochas
157 and Lumber Bonce
158it's mwele and Elkeh Pipick, Scaevola, Pepito and
159 Tanglefoot ...
160what do they call'y'?
162where were y' born?
163in the cow's horn
165where were ya born? I didn't hear ya
166roundabout and begin again
167well I'll tell ya
168 my father was born in England
169 my mother was born in France
170 but I was born in diapers
171 because I had no pants
172(cross my heart and hope to die
173if I ever tell a lie )
174where were you born my pretty lass?
175born in the still-house bin
176ifn Pappy hadn picked me outa the mash
177they'd'a called me Stone Blind Gin
178where do you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?
179way down south where the taters grow
180where do you come from, Vinegar Bill?
181where the Gila sleeps in the sagebrush hill
182where do you come from, Popoli
183in your laplap jockstrap sewn with bead?
184I'm growing up in New Guin-ea
185under the eye of Margaret Mead
186laughing, talking, one hand, the other hand
187one foot, the other foot
188that's where the shoe is
191how's your old man earn his nicker?
192potter? piper? peapod-picker?
193packer? knacker? sailor? stoker?
194bumbailiff? or bailbond-broker?
195doctor? proctor? thane? or thief?
196dustman? postman? on relief?
197 my old man's a dustman
198 he wears a dustman's hat --
199aah, knock it off, Noddy
200we already been there
202a navvy by his trade
203he wheels a great big barrow
204he swings a pick and spade
205my old man's a navvy
206he get's a navvy's pay
207it doesn't fill a rotten tooth
208or scare the wolf away
209I'm growin up to earn my keep
210as quickly as I can
211an I guess I'll be a navvy
212just like my old man
213 my father works in the A & P
214 my mother clerks in the baker-y
215 my sister dances in the hula show
216 and they do it for me, me, me
217my old man's a psychiatrist
218he has a psychiatrist's couch
219he doesn't stick any needles in
220but his patients still cry ouch!
221he thinks I'm slightly paranoid
222or maybe rather manic
223I tell him I'll turn out all right
224if only he won't panic
225if you got anxiety
226my dad will worry for you
227at 25 bucks an hour
228it's what psychiatrists do
230Why? -- Z
231butter your bread
232if you don't like it
233go to bed
234Why? Why? Why?
235¿Cuándo? Pourquoi? Far vus?
236why does a chicken cross the road?
238waarom steekt een kip de weg over?
240¿ cuándo la gallina cruza la carretera?
242perchè Garibaldi alla battaglia di Calatafimi
243 portava le bretelle tricolori?
244to hold his pants up, stupid
246how and when and where and why
247stars and sun and moon and sky
248canals and craters, dunghills, dunes
249tell me what's beyond the moons?
250beyond the moons the sands are deep
251they spread through all the purple skies
252in them are Giants who never sleep
253but watch the world with burning eyes
254they're just like us, with sharper claws
255huger pincers, fiercer jaws
256and if they catch you -- goodbye head!
257goodbye little crystal bed!
258so wrap your feelers round your feet
259fold your thorax nice and neat
260the sun is high, the hour is late
261now it's time to estivate
262 I lay me in my quartzy pool
263 I pray the gods to keep it cool
264 to keep off demons far and near
265 and wake me when the winter's here
266 to dance with joy on all my legs
267 and live to lay a thousand eggs
269 Mother Mother I am sick
270 call for the doctor quick quick quick!!!
271 Doctor Doctor shall I die?
272 Yes my child and so shall I ...
273Do you ever think when the hearse goes by
274that one of these days you're going to die?
275a-whoo, a-whoo ...
276the dark the hairy scary dark's where
277the nightblooming neuroses grow:
278Mummy the THING'S under my bed again!
279they wrap you up in a big white shirt
280and cover you over with tons of dirt
282under my bed, my childhood bed
283only the dustflocks blew
284in the midnight caverns of my head
285the goblins spawned and grew
286they stuff you into a long long box
287and cover you over with mountains of rocks
289but my children's fears are wider, wilder
291in their delirious feverdreams
292angry shadows chatter from the bookshelves
293and Caesar's legions fight all Gaul from the staircase
295 imperial ibises rise
296stark and threatening from the reeds of the rug
297and the worms crawl out and the worms crawl in
298and the ones that crawl in are lean and thin
299and the ones that crawl out are fat and stout
300a-whoo, a-whoo ...
301deposition by J.E.G., acquaintance of writer:
302 The storm was raging and the wind was howling outside the
303 castle. Inside the castle the lights flickered of. There was a
304 blood-curling shriek. A Black figure stalked up the corridor.
305 Bloodstained was his hands. I ran down the corridor and fell.
306 Quickly I got up. I ran down the corridor only to find a girl
307 jabbed in the back. As I ran farther I fell in a pit. It was a don-
308 jon! I felt myself being chained to the wall. I struggled to
309 free myself only to get whipped in the leg. The lights went on,
310 I found the Black thing ready to cut my throat! I prepared to
311 die. IM DEAD! IM DEAD! I screamed.
312your eyes fall in and your hair falls out
313and your brains come tumb-a-ling down your snout
315 Hap-py Birthday!
316 Hap-py Birthday!
317 children are crying
318 people are dying
319 Happy Birthday ...
320here you're in
321there you're out
322that's how the world goes
325rise, Sally, rise
326open your eyes
327the earth turns east, the sun turns west
328turn to the one you love the best
329 Red Rover, Red Rover, let Billy come over
330 I wish, I wish your wish may come true
331 the sun is up high at the top of the sky
332 you can't cross my river unless you wear blue
333bushel of wheat, bushel of barley
334all not hid, holler Charley!
335bushel of wheat, bushel of rye
336all not hid, holler I!
337bushel of wheat, bushel of clover
338all not hid can't hide over
339look out, World! here I come!
340we sing from near, we sing from far
341you brought us here, and here we are
342we sing from far, we sing from near
343nobody told us why we're here
344we sing by night, we sing by day
345nobody told us what to say
346in love begot, in lust begot
347nobody asked us what we thought:
349my warriors have pitched their tents
350where Tigris meets Euphrates
351I suck the stubborn teats of goats
352and feed upon the date-trees
353I hunker down upon my heels
354(they call me chieftain's daughter)
355and I crack my lice between my nails
356and flick them in the water
357 we have to sing, we sing a song
358 it's all of Time and twice as long
360 Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool?
361 Yes, Master Coxe, my fleece is fat and full
362 Shearer, shearer, clip him to the fell
363 and take the wool to little John who lives by the well
364I sit and pick at wool
365I pick at wool all day
366I have no time to go to school
367I have no time to play
368the shepherds tend the flocks
369the shearers clip their backs
370and sell the wool to Thomas Coxe
371who stuffs it into sacks
372and when the bags are full
373they bring them in to me
374for every day I pick the wool
375he pays my penny fee
376my hands are cracked and sore
377I pray to go to heaven
378and hope perhaps he'll pay me more
379next year when I am seven
380 I sing my song the whole day long
381 from morning light to even
383I am a little chimney sweep
384a poor benighted chap
385I knock about the dark all day
386and no-one cares a rap
387the soot grinds down into my groins
388each time my brush goes whap!
389I'll die from cancer of the nuts
390if I don't get the clap
391 we sing our song, our song is long
392 it's large as life and twice as strong
393if you should see a chimney sweep
394your luck will turn to bad
395so always keep your eyes away
396from a chimney-sweeping lad
397but if by chance they light on one
398don't let it go at that
399-- just hold your collar till you see
400a horse, a dog, a cat ...
402 here upon the altar
403 lies the bleeding victim
404 we slew him without falter
405 -- that was why we picked him
406 O mighty Rongo, here's your fish
407 wrapped up in tidy parcels
408 was ever god served up a dish
409 of such prodigious morsels?
410all the gods are bad ones
411and some are worse than others
412the god who gave me his name
413had demons for his brothers
414he chose the altar for me
415the axe to split my head
416the leaves to wrap my ears and nose
417for the prize when I was dead
418the missionary came then
419and he took me in his arm
420he swore his God would strike them dead
421if they did me any harm
422my father broke his spear in two
423the prayer-king stove his drum
424and as a joyful Christian child
425I sing of Kingdom Come!
427 one day he gave me peaches
428 one day he gave me pears
429 one day he gave me fifty cents
430 to kiss him on the stairs
431the missionary ladies
432have taught me to sew and cook
433to plant flowers in pots
434and embroider French knots
435and write in a bluelined book
436they have taught me to read the Bible
437and to frown and turn my back
438on Corporal McGlash
439when he twirls his moustache
440and calls me the Rose of Ladakh
441but my mother will come and fetch me
442to my home on the mountain side
443and I'll turn back my face
444to the ways of my race
445in Shamlegh when I am a bride
446and turquoise and silver will bind up my hair
447instead of a flowery hat
448my three husbands will plough
449while the fourth milks the cow
450-- but I won't tell the pastor that.
451 I gave him back his peaches
452 I gave him back his pears
453 I only kept the fifty cents
454 and kicked him down the stairs
456Mammy, Mammy, tell me true
457when shall we be free?
458Hush, chile, eat you chickenfoot stew
459don't say dem things to me
460 ole Uncle Jack he wanta git free
461 foun his way north by de bark on de tree
462 cross dat river floatin in a tub
463 paterollers gibm a mighty close rub
464Mammy, Mammy, all de years
466Hush, chile, hush chile, all you tears
467won' make him let us go
468 old Aunt Dinah jes like me
469 wuk so hard she wanta git free
470 but Aunt Dinah gittin kinda ole
471 she feared of Canada cause it so cole
472Mammy, wanta board dat Freedom Train
473feel de sun shine on my haid
474hush, chile! don't talk out so plain
475or you mighty close to dead!
476 ole Uncle Billy, mighty fine man
477 tote de news to Massa, fast as he can
478 tell Uncle Billy you want free fer a fac
479 nex day de hide skun offn you back
480and still we dance and still we sing
481Juba dancers in a ring!
482Juba dis an Juba dat
483Juba skin dat Yaller Cat
484Juba jump and Juba sing
485Juba cut dat Pigeon's Wing!
486Gadder roun, chillun, thank de Lawd
487old Abe done set us free
488Massa in de cole cole groun, praise Gawd
489in de Year of Jubilee!
490 Missus an Massa, walkin down street
491 hans in dere pockets, nothin to eat
492 Missus git home, wash up de dishes!
493 patch up y'ole man's raggedy britches!
494 Massa run home, git out de hoe
495 clear de weeds outa y'own corn row
496 de Kingdom Come, de slaves gone free
497 ain no slaves in de Year Jubilee!
498two four six eight
499we don't want to integrate
500 ('I dunno what they complainin about what with
501 Bull Connor givin em free street
502 baths an dog shows ever day')
503put down you heel
504put down you toe
505 ever time you turn aroun
507git off you knees
508hold up you head
509 ever time you turn aroun
510 Jim Crow dead!
512 get a piece of pork and
513 stick it on a fork and
514 shove it in the mouth of a Jewboy, Jew ...
515a skinny kid, a Yidl kid, I run the streets of Kiev
516the sh'gutzim kick my shins, the cold winds blow me like a leaf
517a skinny kid, a Yidl kid, with swinging black earlocks
518for furtrimmed ladies and their gents my father fixes clocks
519he cheats them just a little bit to make up for the tax
520I call them Pan and Panya and I spit behind their backs
521a dirty sheeny ragged Yid I spit behind their backs
522 Jewboy, Jew
523 Jewboy, Jew
524I am Belsen number 7829
525I know not blue sky nor to see the sun shine
526blind, I hear others die. I am called swine.
527 and still we sing and still we sing
528 and through the wires our voices ring
529does no-one hear? does no-one come?
530Lord of the World, my mouth is dumb
532 Bach Jones a bag of bones
533 a belly full of fat
534 and when he dies he shuts his eyes
535 now what do you think of that?
536at Aberfan where I began
537I never grew to be a man
538the slag ran down toward the town
539I cried and I was still
540God lost my name and no-one came
541I died beneath the hill
542still in their dreams our voices sing
543through stone and slime the echoes ring
544 Rhys Owen was a holy man
545 he went to church on Sunday
546 to pray to God to give him strength
547 to whip the boys on Monday!
549the light swings west, the shadows follow
550the ball is hollow
551on the wall
552curtsey, salute and roundabout
553we go by turns but never out
554we turn the world away from night
555we raise the sun, we bring the light
556if we don't act the way we should
557too bad for you. We're here for good.
558and begin again
1] Cf. "Tennis at Midnight," Noman's Land: Stories by Gwendolyn MacEwan (Toronto: The Coach House Press, 1985):
The past was a place of games played with deadly earnest, the terrible arena of childhood. He was very young and he smelled of melting running shoes and schoolyard dust and warm apples and peanut butter sandwiches. The girls at noon bounced hard rubber balls under their knees or flung them rhythmically at the school wall, chanting in girl language: ordinary, moving, left foot, right foot, curtsies, salutsies, turnsies. The boys watched them, fascinated and bewildered and afraid. Apples, peaches, pears and plums! the girls screamed as they flung themselves in great suicidal leaps into the whirling maw of their skipping ropes. Tell me when your birthday comes! And dancing in the frenzied centre they called out the names of the months of the year - this year, any year: 'JANuary, FEBruary...' until the schoolyard was a whirling circling planet of tastes and smells and colours and sounds erupting into chaos like the first dream of his life in which the sky broke up into a jigsaw of faces and figures and mythical animals and then it all fell down.
32] "Pimperroquet, the king of butterflies makes a beard, he cuts his chin, one, one, it's the moon, two, two, it's the game, three, three, it's your turn!"
35] laura Secord: a Canadian heroine of the the war of 1812. She warned Canadian forces of the coming of the Americans.
51] A version of the nonsense rhymes, perhaps "eenie, meenie, minie, mo, catch ... by the toe, catch him ... let him go"
82] Tonto: the Lone Ranger's native sidekick.
83] a town on the western shores of Toronto's outshirts, on Lake Ontario.
112] rockabye baby: cf. the nursery rhyme
Rockabye baby, on the tree-top,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock,
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all.
132] a common children's rhyme
136] Cf. the Mother Goose rhyme, "Dickery dickery dock."
152] "What's your name? I'm named after my father. And your father? My father's named after me."
172] Common children's verses.
176] ifn: if an ("an" is redundant, an old form of "if").
179] taters: potatoes.
181] Gila: gila monster, a common lizard.
185] Margaret Mead: a famous anthropologist (1901-78) whose book, Growing Up in New Guinea, documented the lives of children in Manus Island.
197] dustman: garbage collector.
201] navvy: laborer.
206] get's: gets us.
213] A & P: the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, a chain of supermarkets.
237] "I don't speak Spanish" (Spanish).
238] The previous question ... in German.
239] "Why not?" (French).
261] to go into a deep sleep during the summer (like hibernating, but not in winter).
262] quartzy: like quartz.
293] Gaul: approximately the region in Roman times now called France.
329] Red Rover: a school-recess game. Children divided into two teams, facing one another, each team's members holding hands. Then one of the teams chose what it thought was the weakest, smallest child on the other side, and called out "Red Rover, Red Rover, let [name] come over!" That child had to run to break through the other team as it held hands. If the child broke through, she or he got to take one member of that team, back to his team. If the child failed, she or he stayed with the other team.
360] The Mother Goose song, "Bah, Bah, Black Sheep."
389] nuts: testicles.
390] clap: venereal disease.
406] Rongo: "sound," the Polynesian god of crops, the creator.
434] French knots: little knotted stitches representing small things, like the centres of flowers, and rather difficult to master.
440] Ladakh: mountainous region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, characterized by wild roses.
445] Shamlegh: a place in Rudyard Kipling's Kim.
458] chile: child.
463] paterollers: slang for "patrolers," whites who enforced the slave codes against African American slaves. gibm: give him.
465] Massa: master.
468] jes: just.
469] wuk: work. wanta git: want to get.
471] cole: cold.
472] Freedom Train: the underground railway, an anti-slaving network that enabled African American escaped slaves to leave the southern states for New England and Canada.
477] tote de: told the.
478] fer a fac: for a fact.
479] de hide skun offn you back: they flay the skin off your back.
481] juba: dance where southern African Americans clapped their hands, slapped their legs, and stamped their feet on the floor as they shouted "juba." Gadder roun, chillun: Gather round, children.
487] Abe: Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), 16th president of the United States, who led the Union against the South in the American civil war to free the slaves.
497] Jubilee: Biblical term for the year in which slaves are freed (Leviticus 5:54).
499] integrate: remove political, legal, and social barriors to the identical treatment of whites and blacks.
501] Bull Connor: Theophilus Eugene Connor (1897-1973), Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama, ordered the police to use dogs and fire hoses against civil rights demonstrators in 1963.
506] In the 1830s Daddy Rice, a white minstrel-show singer, blackened his face and danced in imitation of a black person, termed "Jim Crow."
515] Yidl: Joseph Green's Yiddish film, Yidl mitn Fidl (1936), about the adventures of Arie and his daughter, who disguises herself as a girl named Yidl. Kiev: a city in the Ukraine.
521] sheeny: insulting name for a jew.
524] Belsen: a Nazi death camp sixty kilometres north of Hannover.
536] Aberfan, a mining town in Wales that suffered a great disaster on Oct. 21, 1966 when 144 people, 116 of them children, died when a tip of coal waste collapsed on the village.
Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Copyright The Works: Collected Poems of Phyllis Gotlieb Calliope Press 1978
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Phyllis Gotlieb, Red Blood Black Ink White Paper (Toronto: Exile Editions, 2002): 63-83. PS 8513 .O77R33 Robarts Library
First publication date:
Publication date note: Ordinary, Moving (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/1/5*1:2003/1/11
Rhyme: irregularly rhyming
Other poems by Phyllis Gotlieb