For Ryan White
If my name were Ryan White
If I were three months old but bright
I would learn to read and write
While other children fight and bite.
In looking at the gifts I’d get
While I made my diapers wet
You’d know what I would want, I’ll bet.
I would want the alphabet.
I’d hope that some new friend or nurse
Or even stranger, foe or worse
Who with a diaper or a curse
Would bring me letters set in verse.
My name is hardly Ryan White
I’m sixty one; I’m not too bright
Still, I’d rather read and write
When I go to bed at night.
When you make the letter A
It looks a little bit, I’d say
Like a barn with piles of hay
Where donkeys eat; where you can play.
Some say that B when on its side
Are houses where two liars hide.
One’s a liar; one’s a guide
Which of these two liars lied’
C’s a place to put things in
Prizes tiny as a pin
Prizes, small and very thin
You can lose them when you win.
D is sort of half an O.
O is twice a D. D’s grow
To be an O or more; you know
The growth of D’s is very slow.
E’s two shelves to put your toys.
It’s good for girls; not bad for boys.
With E no neighboring kid destroys
Your warlike toys with horrible noise.
F is E without a foot
Or half a tree without a root.
I’ve no idea where someone put
This root stuffed deep beneath the soot.
G’s a C where one can sit
On what is flat, where one can fit
Mutter bitter bits of wit
Write and wonder what you’ve writ.
H has two big lines that go
To your skull and to your toe
Or a house whose roof can grow
Towers that can pierce the snow.
I is just a rope, a word
That you’ve heard and heard and heard
Which I hope you have inferred
Sometimes seems a bit absurd.
J is like a fishing hook
With a curved and sharpened crook
It brings up sunfish from a brook;
It may catch you if you look.
K, well K is K, just K.
It isn’t J; it isn’t A.
What else can I really say’
Take your toys; go out and play.
L’s a children’s easy chair.
Many kids will sit down there
With other monsters, strange and rare
A unicorn, a mouse, a bear.
Can you guess what M would be
If upside down’ Right. You can see
M’s two lines, then a v;
it’s ski lofts where two kids can ski.
When one N, not five or ten
N’s always N, not now and then.
N when upside down is N.
Don’t ask me why or even when.
O is rounded more or less
Like an orange squashed, I guess.
But it you squash an O and press
You’ll press the O into a mess.
P stands upon a single line.
It thinks it’s perfect and divine.
It’s sure the air is rare and fine
And sips its dandelion wine.
Q is always dogged by U
But U is not in love with Q.
This is what these letters do.
I’ve asked them why; they never knew.
R’s a P, with one detail
Unlike a P; it has a tail.
Curving like a little snail.
A P’s an R whose tail’s in jail.
S, though curving like a snake
Whose rattles may make noise and shake
And keep a little kid awake
May be more than a kid can take.
T is like a wooden stool
Where schools once put a silly fool
Now most teachers think it’s cruel
And fools get ice cream as a rule.
U is like a narrow hole
Where one finds a worm or mole.
U’s an endless toilet bowl
Where some people put their soul.
V is like a V but not.
It’s got things no V has got.
It is sharp; it may be hot
And other things, What’ God knows what.
W is a double U
U is one; it’s never two.
It’s not a slew of Us, not Q-
Maybe none of this is true.
X was once a fiery letter
Branded on a crook or debtor
Or was it A’. It doesn’t matter.
Nowadays, we all know better.
Y’s a path that goes two ways.
Both lead to many happy days.
A place were nothing evil stays
And all eat ice cream in the haze.
Z’s an N but on its side
Z’s an N that’s upped and died.
Of all the letters that have tried
Z’s the last one certified.
We call this thing the alphabet.
That’s all the letters you will get.
When merely A to Z’s a bore
We’ll buy more at the letter store!