Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I'll Eat Your Toes: Adventures in Children's Cannibalism

I don't know how and I don't know why
But I just thought of Alligator Pie

As I was sitting in my office pouring over my work, I suddenly thought of cannibalism.  At the time of writing, my work has nothing do with people eating other people.  But, for whatever reason, cannibals stuck in my head.  Not just any cannibals, though.  One very specific instance of cannibalism, memorialized in rhyme.  

I couldn't remember the poem exactly.  Something about knees and place names.  Canada has a lot of funny place names, like Wawa and Regina.  The cannibalistic children's poem I was thinking about rhymed cities and body parts as a kind of geographic table d'haute.  Appropriately, the rhyme was published in a book called Alligator Pie.

Alligator Pie is an award-winning children's book by Dennis Lee.  It's a collection of poems, each one brilliantly illustrated by Frank Newfeld.  I, along with a whole generation of Canadians, grew up with Alligator Pie, giggling at the rhymes and marveling over the pictures.

Pictures like this:

"Marveled" might not be the right word, come to think of it.

"Stared at in slack-jawed amazement"'s more like.  I'm sure I spent many long minutes pondering that sad man's cruel fate.  But I was probably on the side of the dragon.

It wasn't so much the words of the poem, as the pictures that came back to me that morning as I sat at my desk.  I recalled severed arms and legs.  A hat, too, I think was on the menu.  I remember as a kid thinking it was silly and fun, and maybe a little bit weird and off-putting, but I liked it.  I liked everything about it, even if it was a poem about eating someone piece by piece, on a cross-country culinary tour of Canada.

But what was it called?

With a pressing need to sate my desperate hunger for knowledge, I put my considerable intellect to use and phoned my mom.

The poem is called In Kamloops.

Click to biggify.


Sarah said...

This immediately made me think of the poem Boa Constrictor by Shel Silverstein. Not about cannibalism, but still rhyming set to body parts that are being eaten. I used to think this was so funny when I was little.

Boa Constrictor

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff...


Sarah said...

oops here's the link to the picture that goes with the poem:


James said...

Is it just me or does the Boa in that pic look none too thrilled to be eating that fella'.

DM said...

I remember that one!

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