a poet discovered

April 3, 2005

Thanks to a listserv I belong to for writers and lovers of Children’s Lit, I was recently introduced to a new favorite poet [one of my favorites, rather]. As I read a review of his newest volume, it left me gratefully weeping over my keyboard, at work, in plain view, for any passers-by to see . . .
So, I wanted to post an excerpt here, to share the joys of Michael Rosen’s gifted words. And, I suspect, if you read to the end of this post, you just might sypmathize, if not share, my tears:

“Eddie and the Birthday
(Eddie is my second son)
When Eddie had his second birthday
he got lots of cards,
and he had a cake and all kinds of presents
and we sang Happy Birthday,
‘Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Eddie…’
and all that.
He liked that very much
So he goes:
‘More. Sing it again.’
So we sang it again.
‘Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Eddie…’
and all that.
And he goes,
‘More. Sing it again.’
So we sang it again.
‘Happy Birthday to you
da de da de da, dear Eddie
da de da to you…
‘And he goes,
‘More. Sing it again.’
It felt like we sang Happy Birthday about
Two hundred and twenty-three times.

And the candles. On the cake.
He loved them.
‘Eddie, blow.’
He blew.
And the moment he blew it out
he wanted more.
‘More candle.’
So we light it.
‘More Eddie blow.’
Eddie blew.
‘More candle.’
We light.
‘More Eddie blow.’
‘More candle.’
That felt like two hundred and twenty-three times as well.

And he loved the cards.
Everyone who sent him a card
seemed to think he’d like one
with pictures of big fat animals.

Elephants and hippos.
He got about ten of them.
Imagine.
Your second birthday
and everyone sends you pictures of
hippopotamuses.
Maybe they think he is a hippo.

Anyway he had a nice birthday.
Next day he gets up
comes downstairs
and he looks around
and he goes,
‘More happy birfdy.’
So I go,
‘That was yesterday, Eddie.’
‘More happy birfdy.’
‘But it isn’t your birfdy–I mean birthday…’
‘More happy birfdy.’

Now you don’t cross Eddie.
He throws tantrums.
We call them wobblies.
‘Look out, he’s going to throw a wobbly!’
And the face starts going red,
the arms start going up and down,
the screaming starts winding up
he starts jumping up and down
and there he is–
throwing a wobbly.

So I thought,
‘We don’t want to have a wobbly over this one.’
So we started singing Happy Birthday all over again.
Two hundred and twenty-three times.
Then he says
‘More candles.’
‘We haven’t got any,’ we say
(Lies, of course, we had).
‘More candles…’
So out came the candles
and yes–
‘Eddie blow.’
He blew.
‘More candle.’
And off we go again–
Two hundred and twenty-three times.

And then he says,
‘Letters. More.’
Well, of course no one sent him any more,
so while I’m singing more happy birfdys,
my wife was stuffing all the cards
into envelopes and sticking them down.
So we hand over all his cards again
and out came all the hippopotamuses again.

So he’s very pleased.
And that’s how Eddie had two birthdays.
Lucky for us
he’d forgotten by the third day.

Maybe he thinks when you’re two you have two birthdays
and when you’re three you have three birthdays
and when you’re seventy-eight you…”

and later, here is an excerpt from The Sad Book (2005):

“What makes Michael Rosen sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died suddenly at the age of eighteen.”
“Sometimes I want to talk about all this to someone. Like my mum. But she’s not here anymore, either. So I can’t.”which makes me really, really sad, because my mom was the person I always had to talk to about things and now it’s been five long years since she’s not been here for me to talk with.

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