Tickle Proof Sharks

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If I had fins, I could swim
as sharks do, with a ripple
of my muscled back,
eyes open, never sleeping.
I’d never brush my teeth,
I’d grow new ones.
I’d smell my brothers coming
and swim the other way.
Even if they caught up,
my diamond-tooth skin
would be tickle proof.
I wouldn’t have to walk
down dark hallways,
my way would be lit
by phosphorescent fish.
I’d never have to sleep
alone in my room
with only a bear.
I’d stay on the move,
snacking between meals
whenever I choose.
Mom busses my cheek
and tucks me in.
My mouth tastes minty.
Bing-Bong, my bear,
fits into my elbow,
just right.
Sharks can’t dream
if they never sleep.
I wonder what
I’ll dream tonight.
I’ll be a shark in the sea!
I’m glad I’m me.

Copyright 2016 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: For all the people who long to be sharks, may you swim in dreamland tonight. This poem is also for the kids’ literature folks at Poetry Friday. Thanks to this week’s host, Catherine, a talented teacher and poet, at Reading to the Core. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty published a wonderful collection of poetry about nothing, and she even included a poem of mine that doesn’t appear on this website. If you want to submit your poem about nothing, you can visit her site for details. She enters all participants and commenters to win an autographed book, too!

Poetry Friday with kids

37 thoughts on “Tickle Proof Sharks

  1. A tickle-proof shark, huh. Reading this made me remember when my son use to identify with being a tiger… sometimes a “good” tiger, sometimes a “bad” tiger. I always did want to delve into his imagination to figure out where it was all coming from. Thanks for sharing this, Brenda, and also for the TLD mention. Much appreciated!

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    • Hi Michelle, I’m in awe of how much work you must do on TLD and your own site as well. And I greatly appreciate you publishing my poetry! It’s less lonely being a poet these days than when I was in college, scribbling my lines between classes. I appreciate your words about my poem. My daughter has tiger moods and kitty cat moods. It’s my son who would like to be a shark. Sometimes I think he’d like to swim away from our chaos, but then he smiles with his crooked tooth. 🙂 I love his crooked tooth so much, I have a crooked heart now. I should get him braces, but I delay. Best, Brenda

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  2. What fun, to imagine being a shark whose way is “lit/by phosphorescent fish.” I’m glad your little dreamer ended up tucked in her bed (not sure why I imagine a girl) with her bear, though. That seems much cozier. Thanks so much for sharing this, Brenda!

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  3. This is a great children poem Brenda! 🙂 I wonder what it must be like to be greatly feared swimming in water? I do like the idea of not needing to brush teeth and growing new ones! My brother grew a third tooth in his late 20’s, pushed the old tooth out just like when you are five or six – shiny new tooth! I have heard of some people who get an entire new set as an adult, but it is rare. What a pity we are not like sharks in that respect!

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  4. Love this poem — you’ve captured that childlike imagination and dreaming and wishing so well. And of course I was thrilled with Bing-Bong being in your poem. That last scene of being tucked in with one’s bear prompted a huge cheer over here. The 50-something Paddingtons officially love you. 🙂 And I am tickled pink by tickle-proof skin. Thanks for adding such charm and delight to my Friday.

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    • I’m going to fall asleep imagining my hallways lined with phosphorescent fish. Ahhh, remembering the dual fears of my childhood: fear of the dark and fear of ridicule (for turning on the lights). LOL I’m no longer afraid of the dark… Thanks for your lovely comment, Gigi, and your appreciation for my kids lit. 🙂

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  5. “I’d stay on the move, snacking between meals whenever I choose.” Although many lines had special appeal to me, that was the one that resonated most loudly. Why?…Maybe because of remembered (ongoing) childhood delight in choice and independence… Maybe because I just finished reading the DOM “Nothing poems” and wrote down the name of the author of one that I hadn’t read before that struck me most powerfully. (Yours!) …Maybe because “Summer Vacation!?” spoke to the same resolve and independence. Whatever the reason(s), thank you for sharing your “Tickle Proof Sharks” poem. God bless you!

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    • Wow, cbhanek, I think I just fell a little in love with you. And I like your Snowstorm Transpired poem so much!! I know I’m probably getting the name wrong, but what a delight of rhyming snow day fun that was! And your nothing poem was viscerally powerful with its empty swings told from the point of view of the swings. Made me yearn to get out and play. At my age! LOL Most of the poetry on TLD was so playful. Mine stuck out like an orange in a bowl of grapes from its big angry emotions, I think. But it’s drawn straight out of my childhood — as was the part about not snacking between meals. LOL I think we are most powerful when we are most honest. I’m glad you resonated with my poems. Best, Brenda

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      • Amen! …Here’s my contribution to honest reflections…Your “Summer Vacation!?” triggered remembrance of a Professional Development activity, based on identifying photos of international places–specifically Europe– one had visited. Since I knew I hadn’t been beyond North America, I knew from the get-go overview directions that I never would be able to raise my hand as each photo was projected. (Whoever raised his or her hands the most times “won.”) At first embarrassed and wanting to get a pass to the Nurse’s office so that no one would see my lack of international travel, I soon became angry and resentful of the activity. I wanted to disrupt it; make fun of it/minimize it…do anything to put an end to it. And in that moment I understood why school kids act out, why they become disruptive. In that moment I felt sorry, not only for me in that instance, but for them. And your poem brought me back to all those same feelings, crowned with great empathy for your poem’s hero! …Thank you for writing authentic poems, even if they sound “angry.” (I prefer to think they sound authentically, integrally passionate:)…God bless you!

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        • I mentioned this poem to my hubby, who was a “have” compared to me growing up — they went skiing, went to the Carribean, went to Europe, etc — and he told me he felt the same way I described! I was shocked. And it was partly from my past and partly from knowing how disadvantaged my own kids felt when they had nothing amazing to share. We don’t travel at every holiday. But someone else usually has. And now your story of being an adult and feeling the same way, wow. Our culture of happy-happy-life-is-great! doesn’t let people share hurt or sadness in the normal course, does it? Maybe I should try to make this a novel in verse after all. Thanks for your input, and God Bless you, too!

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          • Such a novel in verse would be most welcomed, I’m sure! There are so many reasons to feel alienated, disconnected, “poor.” I never will forget the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarking that individuals in “rich” countries can be more impoverished than those in “poor” countries, since the worse poverty is an inner poverty–feeling lonely, unwanted, unloved. It might be very interesting and instructive to explore the “Vacation!?” pain from the unexpected point of view of the “have’s” like your husband…Or maybe even do a poem in two voices..”have” and “have not”…what DO they have? what Don’t they have not etc. When your work is done, I’ll enjoy reading what you’ve discovered and uncovered! Every blessing!

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            • Yes, you’ve put your finger on why I was a have-not. We weren’t poor. My parents were very frugal. If you spend-not, you won’t become a have-not, which was a post-depression philosophy that is sound actually. But the reasons for my inner poverty were much more complicated than economic. Luckily I mostly don’t feel that way anymore, and Summer Vacation!? took me a bit by surprise. Yet, I think there’s more there. A whole novel, though? We’ll see. I love that Mother Teresa quote. She was a very wise person. XOXO

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