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Sick Poems

Words by Jon Baty



Gadsen, Alabama – Nursery rhymes have been around for centuries, but Slingerbottom Elementary School teacher, Doris Stokes, has had enough. “People don’t realize the tragedies that they are letting their children celebrate,” Stokes told the Gadsen Gazette. “London Bridge is falling down? Why would they want their own kids to sing about the destruction of a famous landmark?”


London Bridge, however, is not the only nursery rhyme that Stokes is upset about. “I can’t even discuss Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” Stokes says. “Might as well just sing, ‘serial killer, serial killer, how do your victims bleed?’” Stokes explained to the Gazette what each of the following poems were about: “Three Blind Mice” was in reference to the Nazi party poking out American’s eyes, “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” supposedly led to a 1973 uprise in marijuana use with babies being put into trees for sport. Perhaps the most controversial rhyme, according to Stokes, was “Ring Around the Rosie.” Stokes stammered, “I don’t want my children singing about Rosie O’Donnell and her same-sex marriage!”


The Gazette asked some of the local children what they thought about the nursery rhymes. Claire Tannebaum, age 5, remarked, “Swiper, no swiping.” Burt Reinholds, age 6, said, “Are we really going to create a blind interpretation of late seventeenth-century poetry? A question that can be asked of any century’s poetry is whether it owes its character to “forces”—nonliterary developments to which the poets respond more or less sensitively—or whether, on the other hand, the practice of innovative and influential poets mainly determines the poetry of the period. This is not Bukowski or Amiri Baraka that we are reading. Cor blimey!”


We reached out to the Gadsen City School District, who refused to comment.

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