Dennis Lee was born on August 31, 1939, in Toronto, Ontario. His collection Civil Elegies and Other Poems was awarded the 1972 Governor General's Award, one of Canada's highest literary honors, but Lee continues to be best known for his collections of cleverly-rhymed children's verse. Wiggle to the Laundromat (1970) was written for his daughters, and like much of his writing, drew upon his experiences as a parent. His other books of poems for children include Alligator Pie (1974), one of the best-selling Canadian children's books of all time; Nicholas Knock and Other People (1974); Garbage Delight (1977); and Jelly Belly (1983). In much of his work, he uses Canadian place-names, local cultural idiosyncrasies, and environmental issues to try to communicate a sense of national identity, but his poems have proven popular among English-speaking audiences all over the world.
You say you want to fight me? But think I'd rather not? Then listen to the story Of another guy I fought, And maybe you'll appreciate-- I don't like blood and dirt All smudgy on my fingertips And dripping down my skirt. A famous pirate captain By the name of Bloody Bill Was marching up the sidewalk On the old Spadina Hill. He had a sort of eye-patch That was caked and flaked in blood. And he ground his teeth together And he spat out bloody crud. He wore a bloody dagger In his muddy, bloody belt, And on his back I saw the track Of thirty bloody welts, And he slooshed his soggy boots Till blood ran down the hill; I figured, by the look of things, It must be Bloody Bill. And Bloody Bill was roaring drunk And Bloody Bill was loud And Bloody Bill was picking fights With people in the crowd. First I tried to walk around him Like a common passer-by; I'm quite a gentle person And I wouldn't hurt a fly, But Bloody Bill got wilder, like A bully and a crook, And by the way, I meant to say He had a bloody hook. He spied a frail old gentleman And seized him by the feet And shook him upside-down until His change rolled in the street, And then he pitched the gentleman Across a grotty sewer, And no one had the nerve to speak Severely to the boor. Now, I was out to buy some milk To take home to my Mum, But I could see I'd have to teach Some manners to this bum For pirates are a pleasure In the safety of a book, But meeting one is much less fun, Especially with a hook. And so I turned to face him, With a sigh of utter boredom, And flicked my little finger, and Immediately floored him. And holding back a yawn, I seized him By his smelly snout, And I flipped his nose, and flicked his toes, And turned him inside out, And wound him round a tree I found And beat with might and main, Till all the booze and tobacco juice Had had a chance to drain. (I know that bullies often come And boss around a kid. But that's the way I do things: So that's the thing I did.) I pelted him with melted cheese And fourteen deviled eggs; I tied spaghetti to his hair, Lasagna to his legs, And then, because I didn't like the way he'd used his fists, I danced upon his ears, until He asked me to desist. And when I turned him right-side-out He scuttled down the hill And never once looked back at me-- Just ran, did Bloody Bill. And me, I washed my fingers Of blood and scum and rum, And bought a quart of two per cent And took it home to Mum. So though I'd love to fight you, I am really very shy, And leaving you all black and blue Would likely make me cry. I don't want to turn you inside-out, Or wrap you round a tree: Why don't you take your strong right thumb And suck it peacefully?
From Garbage Delight, published by Macmillan Canada, 1977. Used with permission.