HOW TO ESCAPE FROM PRISON
(using only dental floss, a large potato,
chilli powder and a green felt-tip pen)
by Roger McGough
Rise from your bunk nice and early
because today will be your Big Day.
Remove the dental floss from its handy container
and tie one end around the bars of your cell window.
Leave the rest dangling.
Peel the potato. As you are unlikely to own
a potato peeler or a Swiss Army knife
you must bite into it and break off
little pieces. Spread the mulch around
the floor of your cell nearest to the door.
I bet you know what to do with the felt-tip?
Correct. Draw green spots all over your face,
mess up your hair, then lie down on the bed
and like plague victims do in the films,
make loud wailing noises. You hear footsteps.
Having observed you through the spy hole,
the warder, moved by your pitiful state,
will unlock the door and rush in. Whoosh.
He will slip on the peelings, fall clumsily,
and skid across the length of the floor.
While he lies helpless on his back
like a giant cockroach, throw the chilli powder
into his eyes, and during the confusion,
leap off the bed and tie the loose end
of the floss to the inside handle of the door.
Jump back on the bed and continue to wail.
But be warned, he will be really angry now,
and threatening you with terrible revenge
he will stagger to his feet and storm out,
slamming the heavy metal door behind him.
Magic! The dental floss, suddenly strengthened
and made taut, will tug the bars out of the window,
leaving enough space for you to squeeze through
and drop into the yard below where the helicopter,
engine running, is ready to whisk you off to freedom.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention the helicopter.)
~ from That Awkward Age (Penguin Books, 2009)
So fun! One never knows when these tips might come in handy. 🙂
It seemed a good idea to pair McGough with graffiti artist Banksy, as both are British creatives beloved by the general public. They’ve made poetry and art accessible to the average person with their unconventional ideas, inventive skills, and a lack of pretension.
Banksy painted “Create Escape” on the outside wall of Reading Prison last year. The inmate, shown escaping via a knotted spool of paper from a typewriter, is thought to be Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who served two years’ hard labor for committing “gross indecency with other men.”
Wilde was sent to the jail in 1895 following a retrial and later wrote his final published work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, highlighting the need for reform of inhumane conditions.
Banksy confirmed the work was his in a video first shared on Instagram, in which he shows himself spray painting stencils at night. In a cheeky twist, he spoofs TV art instructor Bob Ross by overlaying his narration with the night footage.
Fascinating to watch the elusive Banksy creating one of his masterpieces:
Note: In case you do need to break out of prison sometime, Mr Cornelius would be more than happy to lend you his helicopter. 🙂
Master punster Bridget Magee is hosting the roundup at wee words for wee ones. Take her some dental floss in case she needs to plan her next escape, and while you’re there, check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Have a fun weekend!
THE SOUND COLLECTOR
by Roger McGough
A stranger called this morning
Dressed all in black and grey
Put every sound into a bag
And carried them away
The whistling of the kettle
The turning of the lock
The purring of the kitten
The ticking of the clock
The popping of the toaster
The crunching of the flakes
When you spread the marmalade
The scraping noise it makes
The hissing of the frying pan
The ticking of the grill
The bubbling of the bathtub
As it starts to fill
The drumming of the raindrops
On the windowpane
When you do the washing-up
The gurgle of the drain
The crying of the baby
The squeaking of the chair
The swishing of the curtain
The creaking of the stair
A stranger called this morning
He didn't leave his name
Left us only silence
Life will never be the same
~ from Pillow Talk: A Book of Poems (Puffin Books, 1992)
This poem made me smile and nod knowingly, but also wax nostalgic.
Who doesn’t love cyber shopping? Whose eyeballs don’t gleefully roll in their sockets at the words, “FREE SHIPPING”? Yay for the convenience of comparison shopping with just a few clicks, the ability to purchase online one day and find the spoils on your doorstep the next!
But SIGH. When it comes to Santa,I want him to stay exactly the same.
I need his holly-red suit, flowing white beard, and all his reindeer. I need this iconic symbol of joy, wonder, and magic to rekindle those happy childhood memories during a season when we inevitably think of those who are less fortunate, who can’t be or are no longer with us.
I’m so grateful we went to Hawai’i last year to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was my mother’s last, and though she’d been declining for awhile, none of us could have predicted she’d be gone just three months later. I baked several of her favorite treats — Russian Tea Cakes, Almond Christmas Trees, and Walnut Refrigerator Cookies. Whenever she knew I was coming, she’d remind me to bake Refrigerator Cookies for my brother since those are his favorite. But she liked them too. 🙂
During the holidays, I also think about one of my mother’s younger sisters, Auntie Ella. Unlike my mother, she was an avid baker and usually made gingerbread boys and fruit cakes and rafts of cookies. Who can forget her caramel popcorn balls wrapped in Saran?
When I was growing up, my mother’s family took turns hosting the Christmas Day gathering — a joyous, talky potluck usually featuring turkey, ham, Chinese noodles, sushi, a Jell-O-mold, salads, mashed potatoes, hot veggies, kimchi, pies, cakes and fruit punch with 7-Up and orange sherbet. After lunch we played games and got all excited over the prizes we’d won. The “big” door prize was often a 100-lb bag of rice. My favorite prize was a transistor radio I received for winning the limbo competition at Uncle Joe and Auntie Gladys’s house (one of the few times it was advantageous being short). 🙂
When we were little we were blessed with lots of presents from aunties and uncles (my mother was one of 12 children, my father one of 6). Among the most memorable: a 3-foot Ruthy Doll from Uncle Myung Ho and Auntie Susan, a beautiful lacy yellow cardigan (my first with covered buttons) from Uncle Charlie and Auntie Suney, a white wicker purse from Auntie Lily. We anxiously waited for our annual share of Auntie Esther’s scrumptious homemade cookies and the 5-lb box of See’s Candies Uncle Stan and Auntie Kyung Sin sent us every year from California. Grandma Yang was fond of slipping us some pin money along with a box of Hershey kisses.
Of course all this Christmas noshing and partying was just a warm-up for New Year’s, always held at Grandma Yang’s, always featuring dumpling soup — a two-day marathon of serious eating when we kids ran wild doing whatever we pleased while our parents were busy playing poker (did I ever mention that I was asked to leave that part out of my original Dumpling Soupmanuscript?).
My mom prepared her last New Year’s feast two years ago. At 88, she was still a champion chopper with hands that smelled of garlic, a tireless, generous cook who always made extra so everyone could take something home. Cooking, her special way of showing love, was so integral to her identity that she became somewhat despondent when failing health forced her to stop.
Speaking of Santa and rekindling childhood memories, I only vaguely remember meeting Santa once, and there wasn’t any discussion of whether I’d been naughty or nice, or what was on my Christmas wish list. Judging from the only surviving Santa photo in our family album, I was quite terrified of the man in the red suit. Now, if he’d offered me a few sugar cookies we could have become fast friends. 🙂
Despite my early Santa trauma, I still believe in him, the spirit of Christmas, and the value of giving. Every day I still wish for peace on earth, good will towards men, and a time when all colors and stripes of human beings can live together in harmony. And if only we could somehow slow things down so kids can retain their innocence a little while longer!
But we are rich with Christmases past, striving to make Christmases present and future the best they can be. And yes, it’s too easy to lose sight of what really matters. So, bring on the “midnight mass and mistletoe/Christmas carols and candle glow/Sleigh bells ringing across the snow . . . ”
As much as I love my laptop, I mourn our loss of humanity, our allegiance to electronic screens vs. real face-to-face contact marked by kindness and respect. People are not machines.
This will be my final post of 2014, an eventful year marked by sadness as well as joy. I have lost one parent, but the other will celebrate his 100th Christmas next week. Thank you for spending some time here this past year — for your likes, comments and discussions, for always arriving hungry. As before, there will always be a place for you at the Alphabet Soup table, and we’ve much to look forward to in the New Year — cool author and illustrator interviews, reviews, delicious recipes, Indie Artist Spotlights, poetry, tea, Paddington movie, Colin Firth, Downton Abbey!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three — enjoy and be merry!
May all your holiday wishes come true. Make some good memories, like “years and years ago,” worthy of the years to come.
See you in a bit. 🙂
Jama, Mr. Cornelius, and 30-something Paddingtons
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CATCH THAT COOKIE GIVEAWAY WINNER!
We’re pleased to announce that Anna E. Jordan has won a signed copy of Catch That Cookie by Hallie Durand and David Small. Congratulations, Anna! Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and we’ll send your prize out to you today!! Thanks to everyone for entering this surprise giveaway, and thanks to Hallie and David for donating the book :)!
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The inimitable, immensely talented Buffy Silverman is hosting today’s Roundup at Buffy’s Blog (I love the name “Buffy”). Put on your elf shoes and scamper over to check out the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week.
I leave you with this beautiful rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (“Ellen’s Third Song”) sung in German by American vocalist Barbara Bonney. I had only heard it sung in Latin before and didn’t realize it was originally part of Schubert’s Opus 52, seven poems loosely translated from Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake. This sublime, soul-stirring piece is definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by holiday craziness. It will comfort, make you remember, give you hope. ★