I?ve been covering the afternoon shift on Saturdays for the last year at the caf?. It has tended to be a slow time when I have been there with my kids, making paper airplanes, dancing to music, making noise on the microphone and reading and telling stories. I?ve written a lot of stories, not all of them for children, but many of them. Some of them I wrote for my now-grown daughter, and I?m sure there are more to come for my three young sons. We?re making it more formal now, and inviting other children and children at heart to tell stories and listen to stories on Saturday afternoons. The one that follows I wrote for Dolphy Hazel around 1995. He made a six foot replica sculpture of the Venus of Willendorf, one of the oldest sculptures ever discovered, that is actually a few inches in size. His sculpture stood for years in front of his studio on St. Marks Place in the East Village of New York City. It was destroyed by the tenants who replaced him there.
The Fat Lady and the Cuckoo Bird
There once was a happy cuckoo bird
going cuckoo in crazy cuckoo land
until a cuckoo catcher heard
and caught him with his hands.
He carried the cuckoo in a cage
and brought him to New York City.
He had a cat with claws
that knocked the cage with its paws.
Until one day the cage fell down
the gate flew open
the cat bound
for the ledge but the window was open.
That cuckoo bird flew all over New York City
Looking for some place pretty
to make a nest
he flew north, south, east and west.
But nothing looked like crazy Cuckoo land
until he came to St. Marks Place
and saw the Fat Lady’s face.
She was standing there with folded hands.
Her breasts like jugs were hanging down
over her pregnant belly.
Her mound was squeezed between humongous thighs
and her hair was hanging in her eyes.
She stood inside a picket fence
and made no movements.
There was a little bird house hanging nearby.
That cuckoo bird didn’t stop to ask why.
He moved right in singing a happy song
and watched the Fat Lady, but she didn’t talk,
she didn’t walk
for long long long.
Children loved the Fat Lady.
Children loved the Fat Lady.
They couldn’t wait
to run inside the gate
and hug her thighs
looking up at her with wide eyes.
Many people passed by her every day.
Everyone looked at her in different ways.
The artist professor types told
their friends that she was very, very old.
Tourists and fat women took photographs
Young men pointed and poked and laughed.
Graffiti artists sprayed her while people were in bed.
Some people looked and turned their heads.
But her admirers threw money at her feet,
and actually life was pretty sweet
for the Fat Lady and the Cuckoo Bird.
All up and down the block his song was heard.
But a few blocks away was a hospital for the nemtally ill
where a certain sister mary had just been given a pill
and sent away
on the coldest day
she’d been told there was no way she could stay
the city could no longer pay
she turned down the block
where the fat lady was standing like a rock.
SIster Mary fell to her knees.
Let me return to your warm embrace
I don’t understand this place.
Lectures about heaven are ringing in my head
while the preacher’s home sleeping in his bed.
When I die I don’t want to leave.
It’s for mother earth I grieve.
I’m not crazy but I’m not free.
If it was up to me
I wouldn’t need money for anything
and all day long I would sing.
Sister Mary took the money laying at The Fat Lady’s feet
and went to buy something to eat.
Around the neighborhood people with money wanted to buy
Landlords were happy to comply.
The artist came home and found a letter on his door
saying he couldn’t live there anymore.
He had to leave the Fat Lady behind
until he could find
a new place.
He kissed her face.
The cuckoo bird promised to remain
But he was no match for the ball and crane.
They smashed her into a thousand pieces and swept her away
and after that the cuckoo bird didn’t want to stay.
He flew off in search of cuckoo land
dreaming of the clean warm seas and the sands.
The artist did come back one day
to take the fat lady away
But he didn’t ask who smashed her or why
He didn’t cry.
He fetched his pail
And he wailed
The same big breasts
The same pregnant belly
The same humongous thighs
And her hair was still hanging in her eyes.