Hilda Conkling composed poetry when she was between the ages of 4 and 10. Her mother wrote them down for her.
1. Moon Song
There is a star that runs very fast,
That goes pulling the moon
Through the tops of the poplars.
It is all in silver,
The tall star:
The moon rolls goldenly along
Out of breath.
Mr. Moon, does he make you hurry?
The chickadee in the appletree
Talks all the time very gently.
He makes me sleepy.
I rock away to the sea-lights.
Far off I hear him talking
The way smooth bright pebbles
Drop into water . . .
Chick-a-dee-dee-dee . . .
3. Red Rooster
Red rooster in your gray coop,
O stately creature with tail-feathers red and blue,
Yellow and black,
You have a comb gay as a parade
On your head:
You have pearl trinkets
On your feet:
The short feathers smooth along your back
Are the dark color of wet rocks,
Or the rippled green of ships
When I look at their sides through water.
I don't know how you happened to be made
So proud, so foolish,
Wearing your coat of many colors,
Shouting all day long your crooked words,
Loud . . . sharp . . . not beautiful!
4. Tree Toad
Tree-toad is a small gray person
With a silver voice.
Tree-toad is a leaf-gray shadow
Tree-toad is never seen
Unless a star squeezes through the leaves,
Or a moth looks sharply at a gray branch.
How would it be, I wonder,
To sing patiently all night,
Never thinking that people are asleep?
Raindrops and mist, starriness over the trees,
The moon, the dew, the other little singers,
Cricket . . . toad . . . leaf rustling . . .
They would listen:
It would be music like weather
That gets into all the corners
Every night I see little shadows
I never saw before.
Every night I hear little voices
I never heard before.
When night comes trailing her starry cloak,
I start out for slumberland,
With tree-toads calling along the roadside.
Good-night, I say to one, Good-by, I say to another:
I hope to find you on the way
We have traveled before!
I hope to hear you singing on the Road of Dreams!
O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow beard,
Why do you stand so stiff?
There is only the grass to fight!
6. Little Snail
I saw a little snail
Come down the garden walk.
He wagged his head this way . . . that way . . .
Like a clown in a circus.
He looked from side to side
As though he were from a different country.
I have always said he carries his house on his back . . .
To-day in the rain
I saw that it was his umbrella!
7. The Old Bridge
The old bridge has a wrinkled face.
He bends his back
For us to go over.
He moans and weeps
But we do not hear.
Sorrow stands in his face
For the heavy weight and worry
Of people passing.
The trees drop their leaves into the water;
The sky nods to him.
The leaves float down like small ships
On the blue surface
Which is the sky.
He is not always sad:
He smiles to see the ships go down
And the little children
Playing on the river banks.
This is mint and here are three pinks
I have brought you, Mother.
They are wet with rain
And shining with it.
The pinks smell like more of them
In a blue vase:
The mint smells like summer
In many gardens.
9. I Am
I am willowy boughs
I am gold-finch wings
I am a little grape
Thinking of September,
I am a very small violet
Thinking of May.
10. Spring Song
I love daffodils.
I love Narcissus when he bends his head.
I can hardly keep March and spring and Sunday and daffodils
Out of my rhyme of song.
Do you know anything about the spring
When it comes again?
God knows about it while winter is lasting.
Flowers bring him power in the spring,
And birds bring it, and children.
He is sometimes sad and alone
Up there in the sky trying to keep his worlds happy.
I bring him songs
When he is in his sadness, and weary.
I tell him how I used to wander out
To study stars and the moon he made,
And flowers in the dark of the wood.
I keep reminding him about his flowers he has forgotten,
And that snowdrops are up.
What can I say to make him listen?
"God," I say,
"Don't you care!
Nobody must be sad or sorry
In the spring-time of flowers."
The world turns softly
Not to spill its lakes and rivers.
The water is held in its arms
And the sky is held in the water.
What is water,
That pours silver,
And can hold the sky?
12. Autumn Song
I made a ring of leaves
On the autumn grass:
I was a fairy queen all day.
Inside the ring, the wind wore sandals
Not to make a noise of going.
The caterpillars, like little snow men,
Had wound themselves in their winter coats.
The hands of the trees were bare
And their fingers fluttered.
I was a queen of yellow leaves and brown,
And the redness of my fairy ring
Kept me warm.
For the wind blew near,
Though he made no noise of going,
And I hadn't a close-made wrap
Like the caterpillars.
Even a queen of fairies can be cold
When summer has forgotten and gone!
Keep me warm, red leaves;
Don't let the frost tiptoe into my ring
On the magic grass!
13. Thunder Shower
The dark cloud raged.
Gone was the morning light.
The big drops darted down:
The storm stood tall on the rose-trees:
And the bees that were getting honey
Out of wet roses,
The hiding bees would not come out of the flowers
Into the rain.
14. Purple Asters
It isn't alone the asters
In my garden,
It is the butterflies gleaming
Like crowns of kings and queens!
It isn't alone purple
And blue on the edge of purple,
It is what the sun does,
And the air moving clearly,
The petals moving and the wings,
In my queer little garden!
15. Moon Thought
The moon is thinking of the river
Winding through the mountains far away,
Because she has a river in her heart
Full of the same silver.
16. Sun Flowers
Sun-flowers, stop growing!
If you touch the sky where those clouds are passing
Like tufts of dandelion gone to seed,
The sky will put you out!
You know it is blue like the sea . . .
Maybe it is wet, too!
Your gold faces will be gone forever
If you brush against that blue
Ever so softly!
The poplars bow forward and back;
They are like a fan waving very softly.
For they love the wind in their feathery branches.
They love to look down at the shallows,
At the mermaids
On the sandy shore;
They love to look into morning's face
Cool in the water.
Oh bluebird with light red breast,
And your blue back like a feathered sky,
You have to go down south
Before biting winter comes
And my flower-beds are covered with fluff out of the clouds.
Before you go,
Sing me one more song
Of tree-tops down south,
Of darkies singing their babies to sleep,
Of sand and glittering stones
Where rivers pass;
Then . . . good-by!
19. Snowflake Song
Snowflakes come in fleets
Like ships over the sea.
The moon shines down on the crusty snow:
The stars make the sky sparkle like gold-fish
In a glassy bowl.
Bluebirds are gone now,
But they left their song behind them.
The moon seems to say:
It is time for summer when the birds come back
To pick up their lonesome songs.
Snowflakes are dancing.
They run down out of heaven.
Coming home from somewhere down the long tired road
They flake us sometimes
The way they do the grass,
And the stretch of the world.
The grass-blades are crowned with snowflakes.
They make me think of daisies
With white frills around their necks
With golden faces and green gowns;
Poor little daisies,
Tip-toe and shivering
In the cold!
Oh big red poppy,
You look stern and sturdy,
Yet you bow to the wind
And sing a lullaby . . .
"Sleep, little ones under my breast
In the moonshine . . ."
You make this lullaby,
And you thank the dew for giving you a drink.
The clouds were gray all day.
At last they departed
And the blue diamonds shone again.
I watched clouds float past and flow back
Like waves across the sea,
Waves that are foamy and soft,
When they hear clouds calling
Mother Sea, send us up your song
Why do you stand on the air
And no sun shining?
How can you hold yourself so still
On raindrops sliding?
They change and fall, they are not steady,
But you do not know they are gone.
Is there a silver wire
I cannot see?
Is the wind your perch?
Raindrops slide down your little shoulders . . .
They do not wet you:
I think you are not real
In your green feathers!
You are not a humming-bird at all
Standing on air above the garden!
I dreamed you the way I dream fairies,
Or the flower I lost yesterday!
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