How children think: 3 poems

How To Be Old
How To Be Old
How children think: 3 poems

Wonder what children think about hell, careers and catastrophes? Sit back and listen to three poems with some insights into their private worries.

Theology of hell

I was worried. I was seven
and Daddy (as we called him then)
was tucking me into bed.
I was worried about hell.
I wasn’t sure how bad you had to be.

So I asked him, “When I die
will I go to heaven or
to hell?” Not a chatterbox
he thought before he answered.
We always could see him thinking
with his eyeballs and his mouth.

He said, “I don’t believe in hell
for God is a loving God.
But if there is a hell, I’m sure
that only a very very few
would go to hell, and only after doing
something very very bad.”

“Like what?” I pushed.
Again he pondered. Then he said,
“Like killing a person on purpose
and never feeling sorry.”
He was a vicar, and he knew.

He kissed me goodnight
and left me healed.
I knew for sure and certain
I would never kill
a person, not on purpose
and if I did, I would be sorry—
so I wouldn’t go to hell.

Vocational Guidance

Little girl in tutu with maneki-neko
“I won’t get tired of being a ballerina.”

You have to say something when they ask
and they always ask.
But I haven’t decided yet.

I might be an anthropologist
or I might be a lady with a nail polish shop
or I might be both, and in my spare time

I might be a ballerina.
When I get tired of being a ballerina
I will have a baby called Hannah

and she will be my friend.
But I can’t have two friends called Hannah
so I will give my baby Hannah

to my other friend, Layla.
Actually I won’t get tired
of being a ballerina.

Elsie’s Scale of Terribleness

Having no one to play with is four out of ten
if it’s only a single day.
A sunburn on your bones is an eight.
Dropping your lunch in the dirt is a five.
A zombie attack is about a nine
A ten would be if my dog died
(that would make me very sad)
or if all the humans of the world
got destructed by the God of Mud
but Granny dying would only be
a five, because she’s old.

All poems are from How To Be Old, for sale at any New Zealand book store (if not, they’ll order it) or buy direct from The Cuba Press.

6 thoughts on “How children think: 3 poems

  1. Love! I feel like the voice of the child narrator is spot on!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Now 17, Elsie says she remembers thinking those thoughts!

  2. I enjoyed reading these poems very much! <3

  3. "Miss BB" says:


    “Miss BB”

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