Flashes of fishes, quick flicks of tails,
Scoot scurry scamper of scattering scales.
A sponge blows bubbles, sea horses race,
Anemones wave tentacles of slow pink lace.
A whale of a sailfish unfolds a fin,
Fans a whiskery walrus with a double chin.
A shovelhead shark grins, mouth underneath
Like a cave full of stalactites—steel-knife teeth.
The ocean brims over with creatures, it seems,
That swim past my eyes like remembered dreams.
From behind glass, a couple of curious squid
Stare out at me: Hey, where’s your fishfins, kid?
Copyright © 2010 X. J. Kennedy. From the book City Kids: Street and skyscraper rhymes. Tradewind Books. Reprinted by permission of the author.
X. J. Kennedy grew up in a New Jersey town surrounded by arsenals and dynamite factories, which kept blowing up and knocking all the windows out of his school. His real name is Joe, but he stuck the initials onto it to sound different from the family of President Kennedy. He has been a destroyer sailor, a scrubber of printing presses, a college teacher, and for the past 35 years nothing but a writer. Kennedy has written more than twenty children’s books, the latest being City Kids, eight books of poetry, and several schoolbooks, among them An Introduction to Poetry, now in its 13th edition and co-authored with poet Dana Gioia. He has received the prize for Finest Fantasy given by the children of the Ethical School in New York City (for his novel The Owlstone Crown); the award for children’s poetry from the National Council of Teachers of English; the light verse award from the American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters; the Poets’ Prize, given by some poets to one of their kind; and the Robert Frost gold medal for his life’s work, from the Poetry Society of America. With his wife, Dorothy M. Kennedy, he compiled Knock at a Star: A Child’s Introduction to Poetry and Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-Me Book of Poetry, which have stayed in print ever since 1982 and 1992. He and Dorothy have six grandkids so far, and live in Lexington, Massachusetts, where the American Revolution began. For more about them, kindly see the website xjanddorothymkennedy.com.