“Finish that Sentence!” (Poetry edition)

Do certain phrases automatically trigger others for you? Surely I’m not the only person who goes through life playing a silent—and unique—game of “Finish that Sentence!” Most of my triggers trace back to poetry.

On a call today, a friend of mine said, “The time has come…” And I completely missed the rest of the sentence because my mind was reciting Lewis Carroll:

…the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

I think the woman who babysat me before I was old enough for preschool read me that poem. Looking back on it today, it hardly seems appropriate for preschoolers. The Walrus and his friend the Carpenter tricked a bunch of oysters into joining them for dinner—not realizing that they were on the menu. Perhaps that’s where my aversion to shellfish began.

poetry and children's books...no better combination
Edward Lear’s own illustration of the scene, 1888

I loved my picture book of Edward Lear’s poem The Owl & the Pussycat. Also a little racy for a two-year-old, but no shellfish were harmed in the making of it. That poem also has its trigger words, although they don’t crop up in casual conversation as often. When someone talks about being “at sea”—or when I pass a green rowboat, I hear:

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
I’d forgotten the rest of the stanza:
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Perhaps that’s where I got the urge to play with guitars. And, well, other things.
I’m grateful I had a babysitter who read me poetry — real poetry. Words so memorable that they cut through the fog of a toddler’s brain and embedded there, to resurface randomly even many decades later.
What are your “Finish that Sentence!” triggers?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *