It was the height of summer. My five year old self and my younger sister were both wearing what was called “baby doll” p.j.’s, back when these things were made of 100% cotton. We lay together, head touching head, as our mother read from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. I was very annoyed that we were being put to bed when it was not yet dark out, not yet night time. Amused, but not swayed by my protests, the final poem my mother read us that night was “Bed In Summer”. So there you have it. I dedicate this poem to all the little kids who have to go to bed when the light beyond the window shade glows in a perfect straight-edged frame around it.
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
[Listen to an audio clip of Paul Muldoon reading “A Polar Explorer”.]