"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more—that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

From Shel Silverstein: Poems and Drawings; originally appeared in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2003 by HarperCollins Children's Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

From Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. All rights reserved.

When Nellie sits beside my bed, 
   She thinks, to please a Poet,
Her talk must be of books, 
   Although I’d rather she’d forego it.

For oft she makes such queer mistakes 
   I must break out in laughter,
And then she looks so grieved, that I 
   Repent the minute after.

Yet though she talks of Ruskin’s plays, 
   Of Dickens’ Tristram Shandy,
There’s none can clearer jellies make, 
   Or match with her in candy.

What though she strays from Pope to Poe 
   With fancy wild and vagrant,
There’s none brings oranges so big 
   Or apples half so fragrant.

And then her eyes are clear and kind, 
   Her mouth is sweet and rosy,
She brings me now chrysanthemums, 
   Now violets in a posy.

Her pastry, too, is always crisp, 
   Her sweets are never gritty,
Her frocks are always neat and fine, 
   Her face is good and pretty.

So while in kindness she is rich, 
   What though her lore be scanty?
What though she talk of Homer’s Faust
   Or Don Quixote by Dante?

What though she asks what Jane Eyre wrote?
   If Wordsworth still be living?
O, I forgive her all, for she 
   Herself is so forgiving.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beautiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

“Goodtime Jesus,” from Riven Doggeries, published by Ecco, 1979. Copyright © 1979 by James Tate. Reprinted with permission.

Body of poem

Tail of poem

Refrain from poem

Poem coda


Surprise rereprise

Tale of tailing off a poem

Cup of tea après poem

Neverending poem, the other poem, yet another poem

Poem behind the poem

Shadow of poem

That ol’ poem again

The Poem

From Sing This One Back to Me (Coffee House Press, 2013) by Bob Holman. Copyright © 2013 by Bob Holman. Used with the permission of the publisher.