You’re tired


You’re tired
(says Ruby)
so it’s good we’re playing

something entiring
and something
not entiring.

I tell you what to do:
make some dolls’ clothes.
That’s entiring.

And then I go home
and you have a wee rest
when I’m not here.


Rachel McAlpine

From a conversation with Ruby, aged 4

Survival kit


Being alive involves
a certain quantity of losing,
maybe six per cent.

Ships planes and
hospital beds, letters
from head office and
blunders all contribute.

The soul travelling
looks for a cloud
and even in the sea
dehydration is
the greatest danger.

The wise provide
for such emergencies.

Knowing a friend may leave
at any time they hoard food
and water, especially water,
and bandage up the heart in advance.

This way they can afford to cry.
Which is right and proper
and the heart does not leak
and they say Yes, yes
I am saved, I have not shrivelled.

Good, good we all understand—
except for how and why at times
a person cries
from the opposite of losing,
from a kind of overflow.


Rachel McAlpine

Do you feel sorry for me?


I was hurt today
(says Ruby)
with a very bad hurt.

There was blood on my knee
and I banged my chin. See?
Do you feel sorry for me?

We were running too fast.
Lauren got a bleeding nose:
I crashed her with my head.

Ellen squealed Ee! but I just cried.
I have to scoot slowly now
because it hurts my knee.

Do you feel sorry for me?
Do you feel more sorry for Ellie,
or do you feel more sorry for me?


Rachel McAlpine

From a story told by Ruby, aged 4 or 5 or 6

How to act cool


If you want to act cool with me
(says Ruby)
just say OK.

The easiest way to learn
is walking waving your hips.
Watch me. One, two, three.

Everything has to be
waving your hips.
That’s part of being cool.

Not spitting on your hand
like they do in Peter Pan:
that’s gross.

You can’t do acting cool
at gymnastics: you might go wow!
and fall off the bar.

Don’t wave your hips
on the trampoline:
just jump the normal way.

Don’t act cool
at dog obedience school
‘cos you might fall over, especially

if you’re walking backwards.
And if you see stray dogs
leave them alone.

I haven’t learned all the coolness
from dog people.
I learned it from Marone.

I’ll spell that for you.
It’s Ethiopian,
so people can’t spell it.

And don’t walk coolly up the stairs.
Just walk normally.


Rachel McAlpine
From a story told by Ruby, aged 4 or 5 or 6

The fair maiden


Once upon a time
(says Ruby)
there was a fair maiden.

She had to decide
which pair of shoes
to wear to her wedding.

The wedding was a sad funeral
for someone in her future
who had died.

The fair maiden loved her shoes.
Finally she decided
to wear these ones.

They are blue
and they’ve got a blue flower.
They remind of her mother
who died.


Rachel McAlpine

From a story by Ruby, aged 4 or 5 or 6