Nancy Byrd Turner Poems >>
April

The April house was near a pond;
  It was made of reeds and of rushes,
  All helter-skelter and out of kelter,
  And ringed by gooseberry bushes.
  The April Fool on the chimney sat,
  In pointed shoes and a pointed hat,
  And welcomed the three with a tee-hee-hee--
  Fair and funny and fat.

The owner of the house bowed pleasantly as the visitors approached.

"I'm delighted that you happened to come on the first of April," he said.

"But this isn't the first of April," the children began, astonished.

J. M. pinched their elbows. "Don't contradict him," he whispered. "He
really doesn't know any better, you see."

  "Have you heard the latest news? [asked the Fool]
  Cows, this year, wear button shoes;
  Dogs will dress in pantaloons;
  So will monkeys, minks, and coons;
  Cats go gay in capes and shawls;
  Robins carry parasols;
  Bossy calves and nanny-goats
  Skip in scalloped petticoats;
  Molly hares and bunny rabbits
  Look their best in jumping-habits;
  Babies are to dress in bearskins
  (If they can be made to wear skins);
  Grown-up folks in straw or leather,
  Just whichever suits the weather.
  These styles are the latest thing,
  Brought from Paris for the Spring,
  Neat and natty, trim and cool"--


"April Fool!" cried Amos. He felt sure that was coming.

But the Fool merely put his hand to his ear. "Did you call me?" he asked
politely.

The children shook with laughter at that, and the April Fool turned to the
Journeying Man. "Your turn," he said.

This is the April poem that the Journeying Man recited for the rest:--

  "Young Peter Puck and his brothers wrote
  To the wise wood-people a little note.
  It said, 'If you'll meet us by Ripply Pond,
  Wonders we'll show with our magic wand.'
  'What shall we do?' said the forest-folk.
  'Maybe it's merely a practical joke.'
  But they went, good souls, and they only found
  A bare, bare bush and the green, green ground.
  'But watch,' said the fairies, 'and you shall see
  Animals grow on a tiny tree.'

  "The rabbits and squirrels felt aggrieved;
  They thought that surely they'd been deceived.
  But Peter Puck, at the head of the band,
  Called, 'Come, come, Kitty!' and waved his hand.
  Then the buds on the pussy-willow bush
  All became kittens as soft as plush--
  Smooth, round kittens, quite calm and fat;
  On every twig hung a little cat.
  And the fairies danced, and the glad wood-folk
  Cried, 'Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful joke!'"

"Now look here," said the April Fool, when J. M. was done. "I have several
important questions to ask this crowd."

He then proceeded to ask the questions, not one of which anyone even tried
to answer.

  "Now, speech is very curious:
  You never know what minute
  A word will show a brand-new side,
  With brand-new meaning in it.
  This world could hardly turn around,
  If some things acted like they sound.

  "Suppose the April flower-beds,
  Down in the garden spaces,
  Were made with green frog-blanket spreads
  And caterpillar-cases;
  Or oak trees locked their trunks to hide
  The countless rings they keep inside!

  "Suppose from every pitcher-plant
  The milk-weed came a-pouring;
  That tiger-lilies could be heard
  With dandelions roaring,
  Till all the cat-tails, far and near,
  Began to bristle up in fear!

  "What if the old cow blew her horn
  Some peaceful evening hour,
  And suddenly a blast replied
  From every trumpet-flower,
  While people's ears beat noisy drums
  To 'Hail, the Conquering Hero Comes!'

  "If barn-yard fowls had honey-combs,
  What should we think, I wonder?
  If lightning-bugs should swiftly strike,
  Then peal with awful thunder?
  And would it turn our pink cheeks pale
  To see a comet switch its tail?"

The queer little fellow did not seem to be at all disturbed by the failure
of the company to answer his questions. He turned courteously to little
Ann.

"It's your turn to ask a riddle, you know," he reminded her.

To little Ann's astonishment a riddle popped right into her head--a rhymed
riddle, at that!

  "Busy Mistress One-Eye
  With her long white train
  Dips her nose and down she goes--
  Up she comes again.

  "Not a hand and not a foot;
  Has no need for those;
  Makes her trip without a slip,
  Following her nose.

  "Two she has to guide her:
  One, a sturdy chap,
  Other, tall beside her,
  In a silver cap.

  "As she moves--how funny!
  Yet it's very plain--
  Brighter grows her one eye
  And shorter grows her train.

"Now, what's the answer?" she cried.

"That's easy," the Fool said promptly. "The answer is, of course, a
mushroom."

Amos laughed loudly at that; but kind little Ann was distressed to think
what a pitifully poor guess her host had made.

"Oh, not a mushroom, Mr. Fool," she said. "Don't you see it has something
to do with sewing?"

"Then of course it's a mushroom," the Fool said calmly. "Don't I sow
mushrooms every year all over my backyard? Nobody can fool me," he
finished with a chuckle, "about mushrooms."

And after that naturally there was nothing more to be said.

The children were very reluctant to leave the April house; but J. M.
glanced at one of the many topsy-turvy clocks that hung from the ceiling
(of all places!), and reminded them that it was high time to be moving
on.