Planet of Poets
Planet of Poets - Little Stories
© copyright Lincoln Jeffries 2014

A new story (almost) every day! Scroll to the bottom to see the newest stories.
For our new folks, just begin at the beginning...

What if there was a Planet of Poets? What would it be like?
Would it be a planet of grassy hills, dotted with trees and coffee houses?
Would anything get done?
Would everyone be lying in the grass, on soft plaid blankets, writing in little notebooks?
Or sitting in coffee houses, with wine and cheese and espresso, booing and applauding?
Who would build the bridges and roads and skyscrapers?
Would the major industries be manufacturing berets, bongos, black turtleneck sweaters, and sandals?
Let's find out. Welcome to the Planet of Poets!

(Turn page...)

Pepe

Now, please meet our Poet Hero, Pepe.
What makes him a Poet Hero, a Hero among Poets? What's different about him from Other Poets?
A sneeze.
So, you may ask, don't Other Poets sneeze?
Indeed.
But with Pepe, it's a SNEEZE! Philosophical. Joyful. Tragic. Tender. Questioning. Probing. Elusive. Revealing.
His sneezing has meaning.
With Other Poets, a sneeze means a cold. Or a bug up their nose.
Pepe's sneeze makes knees weak. Like Franz Liszt or Elvis.
His sneeze is like a sonnet. Or a pizza with everything on it.
Pepe the Poet, whose sneeze is Heroic.

(Turn page...)

Pepe and Frida Collaborate

"Azul!" Pepe sings. "Aaazuuuullll!"
Frida frowns. She paints. Azul drips from the canvas on to the floor, becomes a blue river, a torrent rushing to the sea, and then becomes the sea itself.
"Azul!"

(Turn page...)

The Box

Pepe has a small box, of plain rough wood. It's filled with millions of words. They glitter like diamonds, like stars in the night sky, like sunshine through raindrops.
The box is not locked. Anyone can open it and take a word anytime they want to. Or two words, or however many they need.
The box has millions of words in a million languages. There are words there can can solve any problem, feed every mouth, banish all loneliness, heal any illness.

If someone wanted to...

(Turn page...)

Frida

Pepe and Frida are hanging out together at the coffee house, splitting an order of onion rings. Pepe is serene. Frida is grouchy, but the onion rings help.

Pepe tell Frida, "You're an angel." Frida looks at him and says, "You're an idiot." But she smiles anyway. She thinks, "Maybe I'll let him hold my hand for a while."

She really is an angel, you know.

(Turn page...)

Frida

On the Planet of Poets people and angels coexist. It's often impossible to tell who is who, which is which. Some people are angelic. Some angels are surly. Especially early, before coffee. And angels have to pay for their coffee, just like everyone else, except on Angel Appreciation Day, or when they get 10 punches on their coffee card.

If you were ever stuck for an idea and suddenly felt a whack on the side of your head, it was probably an angel.

Angels on the Planet of Poets aren't Guardian Angels, or anything of the sort. They have no special earthy tasks or heavenly assignments. But they can be good friends. They come in handy when you need a rainbow or a yellow butterfly or a red rose or a kitten in a hurry, or snowflakes, or freshly baked double chocolate chip cookies.

They also make great models - artists love them. They can hold a pose forever and never get tired, and they always looks fresh and nice.

Angels weigh hardly anything, so on a really windy day they have a tendency to get blown all together in a big, billowy pile, usually behind the big fountain in the Plaza - red robes, blue robes, orange and pink robes, and even the occasional old-fashioned white robe, all in a tangle, like fresh laundry in a basket.

Angels go to heaven only for orientation and training and then they return to the Planet of Poets. The rest is up to them.

Frida is an angel, and Pepe loves her. He'd do anything for her and she knows this. He rubs her feet when they hurt, he brings her extra pillows, he buys goodies for her from the French bakery on the Plaza, and he tells her wonderful stories.

Frida is painting a mural that tells the story of her life, her pain, her loves. She's only halfway done but the mural already wraps nearly around the world. She uses one brush only, her pot of paint is never empty, and all colors flow from it.

(Turn page...)

Ngo

Pepe has a very good friend named Ngo. Ngo is very tall, the tallest person on the Planet of Poets. He has very striking red hair, and a handsome red beard.

Ngo is a Master Poet, and the Most Modest. He has the curiosity and enthusiasm of a young boy. He's a very kind person, and he truly, deeply believes in kindness. He's always thinking, thinking and writing. "Incremental Improvement" is his motto.

Today Pepe and Ngo are walking over to see Frida's mural, the new part she just recently completed. This is a favorite pastime of theirs. They like to look at her mural and see if they can spot small portraits of themselves among the painted watermelons, skulls, parrots, coyotes, hibiscus flowers, and Frida's large, extended family and many friends and admirers.

Pepe and Ngo are not the only ones who do this - it's the favorite pastime of many. They can come here and see again the faces of loved ones: parents, husbands, old friends, beloved dog. And there are often comical portrayals of family and friends, Frida's lighthearted attempt to keep them all from taking themselves too seriously. This is the case with a lot of poets. They can also see themselves young again, with a long stretch of unpainted mural ahead.

(Turn page...)

Pepe's Favorite Words

Each day Pepe likes to spend some time thinking about a word he especially likes. Today he is thinking about carabiner.
"That's a great word," Pepe thinks. "I like it a lot. It's fun to say."
Yesterday the word was drupelet. Druuuuuuue-plet.
"Drupelet and carabiner," Pepe thinks. "If I ever have kids I'd like to name them Drupelet and Carabiner."
"Carabiner for a boy, Drupelet for a girl. "
Pepe then tried to imagine two angel children with sweet, lovely faces like Frida's.
Cara and Dru.

The next day Ngo and Pepe are again visiting Frida's mural. They're both peering very closely at portraits of two small children playing with a lively fawn.

"Who are they?" Pepe asks Frida.

"It's funny," Frida replies. "I had the strangest dream."

"I dreamt of two laughing children playing with a fawn in the forest. A boy and a girl, brother and sister. Their names were Cara and Dru. When they saw me they ran to take my hands. They called me Mama Frida. We had a picnic together, a lunch I had brought along in a basket."

"We ate and laughed and fell asleep in the sun. When I awoke I was alone again. I ran as fast as I could, back to my paints, to paint my children."

(Turn page...)

Chalk Drawings on the Sidewalks...

It was a dark day for Pepe. A very dark day indeed.

He decided to stop by one of his old favorite coffee houses that afternoon, the one he frequented as a student. It's the favorite hangout of students attending Poets University.

Pepe hadn't been there for a long, long time. He remembered fondly his time spent there: the lively discussions, the exchange of new ideas, the loud music, the hot coffee and hotter arguments, and the thousands of lines of fresh, new, exciting poetry created and recited.

"We were the best and the brightest," Pepe thought to himself. "We had so much to say!"

Pepe eagerly walked through the door. His first impression was that he was in the wrong place. The coffee house was oddly silent. Although it was crowded as usual with tables, each table surrounded with many chairs, only one person sat alone at each table. And the tables, instead of being cluttered with coffee cups and glasses and pizza slices and stacks of books and piles of coffee-stained papers, had only one solitary cup of coffee sitting on top, cold from neglect.

Each person had in the palm of their hand a small, glowing screen. They stared at their screens intently, silently, heads bowed, making no eye contact, thumbs and fingers frantically poking and stroking the screens.

Pepe asked the barista, "What are they doing?" The barista answered, "They're networking."

Pepe wasn't so sure about this. He didn't see any nets, and most certainly no one was working, besides the barista.

"What happen to the music, the excitement, the noise? Where are the arguments, the boos, the applause?

"This is terrible!"

"What will be next, no more chalk drawings on the sidewalks?"

(Turn page...)

Pepe's Picnic

Pepe decided to go on a quiet, solitary picnic by the lake. He brought along fresh, warm bread from the French bakery, some cheese, a bottle of wine, a soft blanket, and a big stack of his favorite poetry books, a dozen at least. Half he had written himself.

Pepe settled down on the blanket. He was enjoying himself hugely. Finally, the glass of wine and the warm sun took their toll, and Pepe fell asleep.

When he awoke later that afternoon, still stretched out on his back on the blanket, he caught sight of his feet, toes pointing toward the sky. His feet were covered with scribbles and swirls of paint: red, blue, yellow, and black. He thought he could make out words.

Pepe bent over to inspect his feet more closely. He was looking for that subversive message that was always written on the bottom of his right foot, or on one of his big toes. Last time it was: "Poetry stinks. So do your feet."

"Uh oh," Pepe thought. "It's happened again."

"Graffeeti".

This is a favorite prank of Frida's.

(Turn page...)

Operation: "Take Back the Coffee House!"

"So, do something about it!" yelled Frida,

"What do you mean?" Pepe asked her.

"I'm tired of hearing you complain," Frida replied, although she was very fond of complaining herself and was extremely accomplished at this. "If you want your old University coffee house the way it was back when you were a student, then do something about it."

"Like what?" Pepe asked meekly.

Frida was exasperated. "Do you want me to draw you a picture?" she asked sarcastically.

"Yes, please!" Pepe replied. Frida grabbed some paper and a pen from the table and sketched quickly. She handed the paper to Pepe.

"Very funny," said Pepe. The person in Frida's sketch with the little mustache and wearing a beret was unmistakably Pepe. It was Pepe falling off a tricycle.

"I'm not sure this helps!" Pepe exclaimed. "What does it mean?"

"It means this!" Frida rolled up the paper and whacked Pepe on the head with it. "It means get their attention! Show them something exciting, something fun and new and magical, something that makes them look up and see the world around them again."

"If they can focus their eyes further than ten inches away from their noses," she said under her breath.

So Pepe and Frida made a plan...

That evening Pepe and Frida walk over to the University coffee house. Pepe has in his hands a small box, of plain rough wood. It's filled with millions of words. They glitter like diamonds, like stars in the night sky, like sunshine through raindrops.

The box is not locked.

Pepe puts the box on a table. He and Frida wait. They watch.

After a while Pepe whispers to Frida, "Nothing's happening." But then Frida points and says, "See!"

A young man at the table looks up from the small glowing screen in his hand. He has striking red hair and a handsome red beard. He reaches for the box...

(Turn page...)

Angel Cake

"Line the pans first with parchment paper..."
Pepe and Frida are in the kitchen.
Frida's kitchen.
Not many know this, but Frida is an excellent cook.
"Sift together the flour, and the sugar, and the cocoa powder..."
Today Frida is teaching Pepe how to bake a cake. Usually she doesn't have much patience, but she's ok with Pepe.
"Now add the oil, the eggs, the buttermilk, and some of this woooonderful vanilla..."
Pepe drops an egg, and Frida doesn't even mind. But then again, Pepe dropped it on his foot, and he's wearing sandals. Messy.
"Bake for 40 minutes, and then let them cool. And next, the frosting!"
And before them was a beautiful chocolate cake, five layers tall.

"That's divine," says Pepe.
"I know," replies Frida.

(Turn page...)

The Lecture

The evening had finally arrived! Everyone was filled with anticipation.
In the middle of the plaza, under the stars, was a stage.
The stage was lit with one hundred candles and many soft colored lights.
One hundred chairs were lined up in neat rows before it.
Three soft, round mediation pillows lay in a row in the middle of the stage, beneath the flickering lights.

The chairs filled up quickly with people eager to see and hear the Three Transcendental Poets. What will they teach us tonight?

Pepe and Frida and Ngo were sitting in the back row, waiting and watching eagerly. Ngo, as usual, sat ready with his little notebook and pen.

Children played around the stage among the flowers while everyone waited. One little girl clambered up onto the stage. She wore a bright orange and blue dress and had short brown braids and bare brown feet. She plopped down on one of the pillows and started playing with her toys, singing quietly to herself, oblivious to the two hundred eyes watching her.

There was much discussion about who the Three Masters could possibly be. Professors from the University? The Old Poet on the Mountain, who wrote one thousand epic poems with just nine words each? Beautiful Lucy Haiku? Sir Paul McCartney?

(Turn page...)

Frida and Georgia Collaborate

Georgia is painting.
She's painting a flower. Bold, brave, beautiful, elegant, fiery. On a canvas six feet tall.
Frida is her model.

While she paints, Georgia tells Frida about her new hats.
Georgia loves hats.
Frida loves hats, too.

The paintbrush is set aside.
Georgia and Frida are trying on hats, admiring each other, smiling and laughing.

(Turn page...)

Georgia's House

Georgia's small house sits by itself on the edge of the canyon. It's very spare and neat. Her paints and easel and canvases are in one corner. Her bed is in another corner, covered with a snowy white sheet and one feather pillow on top. There's a mason jar filled with wildflowers on the small, smooth table.

Against one wall stands a small armoire. It's filled with dozens of beautiful, beautiful hats. Hats with feathers, hats with ribbons, hats with jewels. Red hats, purple hats, black hats with veils. Knitted hats, soft and warm.

Hats simple and plain. Hats dazzling and daring.

How does she fit all her fine hats in there? Well, that's the mystery. This is a special armoire - it's bigger inside than outside. It takes up only a little space in the room, but there's a lot of room inside.

Pepe built this armoire for Georgia for her birthday many years ago. Pepe, our Poet Hero, is also a pretty darn good cabinetmaker. He's good with words and good with wood. And an expert at inside-out physics.

(Turn page...)

Beautiful Lucy Haiku

vegetable slam
onion is jammin' tonight
rapscallion


Everyone wonders about
Beautiful Lucy Haiku.
Few have seen her.
And everyone wants to meet her.
Many have thought they caught a glimpse of her,
In the Market, perhaps, buying oranges,
Or in the Plaza, trying on scarves.
Everyone agrees that she is a beautiful woman,
With long black hair tied with ribbons
And wearing bright, flowery dresses.
She loves to laugh.

The few that have met her keep her secret.

When a new baby is born on the Planet of Poets
He or she receives a haiku.
From Beautiful Lucy.
It's written in gold ink on plain white paper.
Kind of like a business card.
The haiku has three lines.
They are different for each person.
The lines contain the baby's:

Name Calling Transformation...

At different times in each person's life
They receive new haikus.
Three simple lines.
They are different for each person.
Haikus about:

Yearning Truth Compassion...
Despair Vision Understanding...
Darkness Stillness Radiance...


And other stuff.

When a person's life is over, long or short,
They wake up again with a new haiku in their hand,
Written in silver ink
On plain white paper.

Kind of like a business card.

(Turn page...)

Frida's Haiku Day

Everyone on the Planet of Poets has a Haiku Day. Usually several. They typically come as a complete surprise, and they can happen anytime.

Haiku Days are celebrated, just like birthdays and anniversaries and holidays. Very often there's a big party. And sometimes just a quiet, solitary retreat. It just depends.

Today is Frida's Haiku Day. She was still in bed when she opened her eyes and saw the small white card on the nightstand.

"Oh crap," she said.

She closed her eyes again and tried to go back to sleep, wriggling deeper into her big feather bed and pulling the sheets over her head.

It wasn't working. She sat up and reached for the card. Written in gold letters, it said:

Frida sleeps past noon
Paints by numbers bad at math
Coffee cold in cup


Frida leaped out of bed, ran to the front door, flung it open and yelled:

"THAT'S SO LAME, LUCY!!!"

Lucy knows that Frida doesn't need any help from her.

(Turn page...)

Pomme Tatin

Pepe and Frida are having breakfast together this morning. They're sitting at a table outside the French Bakery on the Plaza, the best bakery on the Planet of Poets. On the table before them, piled high on plates and in baskets, is their lovely breakfast:

Croissants
Chouquettes
Tarte au Citron
Pomme Tatin au Sirop d’Érable
Choux Pistache aux Fruits Rouges
Macaron Fleur d’Oranger
Baba au Rhum
Macaron Coquelicot
Éclair au Chocolat
Macaron Fraise Coeur Pistache.

And coffee, of course. And a slim volume of verse.

"Pure poetry!" Pepe sighs, taking a bite of his Pomme Tatin.

Frida woke up hours early for this, taking extra special care getting dressed. Her shining dark hair is pulled back in a chignon. She's wearing a beautiful off-the-shoulder bright pink silk dress, with a full skirt and tulle petticoat, and a large pink silk flower on one shoulder. Around her neck is a sky blue glass bead necklace, and she has many silver bracelets around her wrists and a ring on each finger.

Pepe has never seen her more beautiful.

They're eating and watching the world go by: people walking their dogs, couples holding hands, children playing...

(Turn page...)

Gargoyles

It's wonderful news! Pepe has just been invited to become a working member of the venerable Institute of Puns! The invitation was on a little white card, written in gold letters.

At the Institute, members create, regulate, and carefully distribute puns. It's sort of like a pun Research and Development lab, with strict control over quality and quantity. Especially quantity. Not too many puns are allowed to be released at any one time. They're distributed sparingly, lovingly, and only after they've been carefully polished and refined.

Or unrefined, as the case may be. Less is more, more or less.

The Institute is located in a large, Gothic-style building on a small island, complete with pointed arches, flying buttresses, spires and pinnacles, and beautiful stained glass windows. And, of course, gargoyles. Each and every gargoyle was modeled after former and current members of the Institute. They are a hoot.

Pepe is delighted with the invitation, and greatly honored. He can't wait for his gargoyle.

practice makes perfect
finished your vegetables
gargoyle on roof


(Turn page...)

Aurora Australis

Pepe and Ngo are standing in front of Frida's mural. They're staring, wide-eyed, and are slowly backing away. Easier to take it all in.

Ngo is mesmerized. Pepe is terrified. It's too real!

Frida has painted a huge, trompe l'oeil dragon. An enormous clawed hand seems to reach out of the wall, ready and willing to quickly make sushi out of them. The dragon, green and scaly, fanged and fiery, is staring back at them with glowing yellow eyes, as cold and curious as a cat. Pepe is certain the eyes are following him around.

Ngo loves it. He had a pet dragon very much like this one when he was a boy. Smaller, though.

The dragon in the mural, winged and forty feet of coils and tentacles, is sea green one moment, iridescent peacock blue the next, then golden and blazing like a sunrise, then crimson red and deep violet like a sunset.

Pepe realizes now how beautiful it is. He's feeling much better. He and Ngo turn and walk together to the nearby tavern for some dinner. It's getting late. Lots to talk about.

The dragon silently stretches its magnificent wings and sails silently into the clear night sky, singing softly to itself a little piece of a Mozart aria. Finished with sunset, it's time to start on the aurora australis, and then sunrise once again.

The dragon likes Mozart for auroras, Beethoven for sunrises, and Monteverdi for sunsets.

(Turn page...)

A Perfect Temper

Pepe has a new camera. He LOVES it.

"Megapixel," Pepe says out loud. "I love that word!"

And Pepe loves to take photographs of Frida.

And Frida loves to have her photograph taken. She gazes directly at the camera, unsmiling, but Pepe can always see the smile behind the gaze, around her eyes.

And so she sits for him today, dressed in a simple white eyelet dress, sunlight sparkling off her necklaces.

One of the very many things Pepe loves about Frida is her temper. "She gets so beautifully, unashamedly angry," he thinks to himself. "She does not suffer fools gladly. Getting angry is a great gift."

And Frida rarely smiles. Her smiles have meaning and are a great gift.

(Turn page...)

The Stars in the Sky

Just like Frida, Beautiful Lucy Haiku is an artist, too. A Painter. She paints dots. Lots and lots of dots.

She's devoted to dots. There's nothing she can't say with dots, no story she can't tell.

She starts with a canvas on which she has carefully laid a background color of her choice: pink or yellow, or turquoise blue, or maybe purple. And then she carefully paints her dots: big and small, rounds and ovals, amoeba shapes, black or yellow or red or orange....

They scintillate, they laugh and dance, they shimmer and quiver, they spin like lights reflecting off a disco ball.

And when the canvas is finally full, more dots flow onto the table, fall to the floor, creep up the chairs and across the walls and ceilings.

Avalanches, waterfalls, cascades of dots! Explosions of dots, like new stars being born. Oceans of dots, glowing yellow in the deepest blue, mirroring the stars in the night sky.

But NOT chicken pox! Lucy claims no responsibility for this. But she does take credit for leopards, spotted frogs of many varieties, birds' eggs, and ladybugs.

Lucy also plays the guitar. She owns a beautiful red guitar, handmade especially for her by her father. Many of the finest guitars on the Planet of Poets were made by Lucy's father. Pepe has one, too.

And so she sits in the sun and plays her guitar, her long black hair falling over her shoulders.

(Turn page...)

Duet

Lucy and Pepe are sitting side-by-side, playing their guitars together. They're playing a lively Scarlatti sonata originally written for the harpsichord. That's a lot of notes! They need two guitars to play this. It's a challenge, and they're having fun.

Pepe and Lucy are dedicating this to their good friend Nelson. They are looking forward to seeing him again very soon.

Then Lucy starts to play and sing Little Wing, and Pepe starts to cry.

(Turn page...)

Pie in the Sky

Frida has always wanted to fly in a hot air balloon! She loves the idea of floating high in the sky, so close to the clouds she could reach out and touch them. She wonders if they'll feel soft, like cotton balls, or maybe whipped cream? And if they're like whipped cream, she thinks, maybe she could make a pie out of them. A chocolate cream cloud pie, lighter-than-air.

At that same moment Pepe just happens to be strolling across the cobblestone plaza. Suddenly, without warning, a pie seemingly falls out of the sky and lands upside-down at his feet. What a mess! Surprised and puzzled, Pepe first looks up at the sky, then down at his feet. He bends over to inspect the pie.

"Hmmmmm," he says. "Chocolate cream?"

The next day Pepe is telling Frida all about it. It's a chilly day, and he and Frida are in the coffee house drinking hot cocoa.

As Pepe tells his amazing story, Frida can no longer keep a straight face and bursts out laughing. She walks over to the counter and orders two big slices of pie for Pepe and herself, with big dollops of fluffy white cloud on top.

(Turn page...)

Silveroo

There's a very remarkable animal on the Planet of Poets called the silveroo. It's kind of like a kangaroo, but it has lovely, soft silver fur. The silveroo is gentle and cuddly - it doesn't kick or box. But everyone gets a kick out of seeing one!

Silveroos are very intelligent and independent - they are never pets! Their natural habitat is the library. And they're very fond of root beer, rutabagas, Baby Ruths, and Rousseau.

Silveroos have one very important duty - they take care of vowels. They watch over them devotedly and lovingly.

And that's the long and the short of it.

(Turn page...)

Johnny

Pepe has a little red fish named Johnny. He's a happy, pretty little fish, with long, graceful fins and a flowing tail.

Johnny lives in a little glass bowl on Pepe's desk, close to the window. Pepe placed the bowl there so Johnny can look outside.

Pepe and Johnny are best friends. When Pepe comes home in the evening, Johnny is always happy to see him. They love each other very much.

Johnny is a special fish. He loves to sing. And he loves to sing opera. He knows most of the operas ever written, from Dafne to Nixon in China. He knows them all by heart, every part, every word, every note.

It's a marvel and a delight to hear the beautiful singing coming out of his little bowl all day. Walk by Pepe's window, listen very carefully, and you'll hear it, too.

(Turn page...)

At the Market

Frida and Lucy are going to the Market today! Frida needs to buy a present, and maybe a necklace or two for herself, if she sees something she likes. (She almost always does!) Lucy wants a basket of fresh oranges.

They brought along some things to trade. Frida is carrying a freshly baked apple pie, plump with sweet apples and fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves. Lucy has one of her new songs, written on beautiful white paper in silver ink, and tied with silk ribbons.

The Market is crowded and noisy and very fun. It's filled with so many wonderful things to look at and admire and smell and taste. They're trying on hats and scarves and shawls and jewelry, admiring themselves and each other, laughing and chatting. Frida buys a beautiful silk shawl, iridescent orange and purple and red, and sparkling with gold thread. And Lucy has her basket of fresh juicy oranges.

When they leave late in the afternoon, walking together arm in arm back to their homes, Lucy is radiant in her beautiful new shawl, and Frida is eating a delicious orange, sweet juice running down her chin.

(Turn page...)

A Starfish on the Beach

When Pepe was a young boy, his father took him to see the ocean. There little Pepe found a starfish on the beach.

He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand. And suddenly he knew this meant something! It had to! All he would ever do, every word he would ever write, depended on this.

He placed the starfish gently back on the wet sand.

As he and his father walked back across the beach, hand in hand, a shooting star suddenly blazed across the evening sky and then quickly disappeared. They toasted marshmallows, and laughed and told stories, and watched the water sparkle under the moon.

To this day, Pepe remembers blue, beautiful blue, deep, deep beautiful blue.

(Turn page...)

I'm Against Them!

Pepe is sitting at his customary table at the café, enjoying the morning with a book and a hot cup of coffee. He glances up for just a moment and sees Manuel walking across the room towards him. It's too late to run out the back door!

Manuel is an old classmate of Pepe's from Poets University. He does everything by the book. Manuel greets Pepe cheerfully and loudly, and invites himself to sit down.

"I've just finished reading your new book of poetry!" exclaims Manuel. "They are fine poems!"

Pepe thanks him modestly, and Manuel continues. "But, if you don't mind me making just a few little suggestions, I think you need a comma here, and one here, too, and another on this line, here." He points to the little book, making jabbing motions with his finger.

"SEE, HOW, JUST, A, FEW, COMMAS, MAKE, EVERYTHING, SO, MUCH, MORE, CLEAR?"

Pepe gazes as Manuel serenely and replies, "I'm against them."

Just then Frida walks in. She sees Manuel sitting with Pepe at the little table in the corner. "He better not be bothering Pepe," she thinks, "or I'll kick the commas right out of him!"

Manuel looks up and sees Frida blazing a trail over to Pepe's table. He give Pepe a hurried farewell and makes a hasty retreat out the door.

Manuel of Style lives to see another day!

(Turn page...)

Horse Feathers

There's a Marx Brothers movie festival at the Theater on the Plaza this week! Pepe and Frida and Ngo are all going together. They go every year and have the best time. Ngo is a huge fan of the Marx Brothers and never misses a festival.

Tonight they're going to see Horse Feathers. This is one of their favorites. On the way over to the theater they sang several choruses of Whatever It Is, I'm Against It! and laughed about Manuel and his commas.

One memorable year Harpo was actually in the audience! This was the closest the Planet of Poets ever came to a riot - so many people wanted his autograph. Ngo had his picture taken with him! And Frida didn't even mind buttered popcorn in her hair. Or not much.

(Turn page...)

Regarder!

Frida and Ngo stroll into the coffee house and see their friend Pepe sitting at his table in the corner. He's laboring over a piece of pink paper.

"What is he doing?" Frida whispers to Ngo. "Darned if I know!" he whispers back.

Pepe has always wanted to try origami! He doesn't really know why, he just likes the idea of it. So today he bought himself some little squares of brightly colored paper and a book. The book is called:

Really Super Easy Origami for Beginners!
My Chihuahua Can Do This!

A descriptive title, Pepe thinks, but not a very poetic one!

Pepe feels hopeful.

As Frida and Ngo approach quietly, they suddenly hear Pepe exclaim...

"Voilà!"

On the table is a pink paper fish, complete with fins and a tail. It can fit in the palm of your hand. There is admiration all around.

(Turn page...)

In the Mountains

Every year on the Planet of Poets, at dawn on the first morning of winter, there's a mass ascension of hot air balloons over the mountains. It's a long hike to get there, but it's worth it.

There's no publicity, no signs, no noisy crowds, no overbooked hotels, no long lines, no concession stands, no traffic, no cameras, and no balloons that look like giant beer cans.

It's quiet. It's magical. The cold air is so fresh and clean that you feel reborn with every breath.

Each balloon is the shape of a flower, a snowflake, or a raindrop; a mushroom, a leaf, or a tree frog; an acorn, a pineapple, or a pine cone; a butterfly, a ladybug, or a dragonfly.

Pilots and passengers in the gondolas wave from above as they drift away over the mountains, balloons glowing brightly.

Pepe and Frida traveled together, wrapped in warm clothes and anticipation. The sun is just starting to rise, the spreading warmth and golden light a gift.

Later that morning, Pepe and Frida are having breakfast at the Inn on the Mountain, enjoying fluffy green chile omelets and cups of hot coffee. The Inn is as crowded and noisy as the mountains are empty and silent.

(Turn page...)

The Necklace

Pepe is sitting at his table inside the coffee house. He's looking out the window.

Outside is the Sidewalk General.

She's a mockingbird. She's sleek, fit, shiny, and alert. She's on a mission. It's just that no one else knows what it is.

She runs back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the coffee house, flapping her wings. Start, stop, flap, turnaround, start, stop, flap...

She doesn't bother anyone, except for that one famous time when she and Frida tangled up. Everyone talked about it for weeks, and the coffee house did the most business ever! Not to mention the hundreds of new poems commemorating the event.

Pepe waves at her through the window.

All summer she runs back and forth on the sidewalk. In winter, she sits sulking in the bushes in back, snatching red berries and gobbling them up. In winter she's the Berry Bandit. And she has a small, sparkly necklace, too, hidden in the bushes.

(Turn page...)

The Story of Two Moons

Frida has just finished painting into her mural the Story of Two Moons.

Long ago, the Planet of Poets had two moons in the sky. One was slightly smaller than the other, and they always appeared in the sky together. They mirrored each other's phases: new moon, waxing crescent, half moon, full moon, half moon, waning crescent, new moon...

When they were both full they lit up the night sky and were glorious to behold.

One evening it seemed as if the smaller of the two moons was just a little fainter than the other. It was hard to be sure. And then the next night, fainter still. What was happening? What did this mean? And in less than a month, the small moon vanished entirely, leaving the remaining moon to drift across the night sky alone.

But, strangely enough, when you looked at the reflection of the night sky in the sea, you could still see both moons! And this is still true today.

Fish swim through them, jellyfish tickle them, seaweed adorns them, and dolphins toss them back and forth with their noses, laughing. Starfish swirl and glimmer around the moons so the sea looks like another beautiful endless sky.

One day a little starfish, giddy from dancing in the twin moonlight, was caught by a wave and washed up on shore. There, in the wet sand, a little boy found it, picked it up carefully, and held it in his hand...

(Turn page...)

Out of Town

Frida is lonely. And she's surprised, and a little angry with herself about this.

Pepe is spending a week on the little island doing some work at the Institute of Puns. She won't be able to see him or talk to him for a whole week! And today is just the first day.

No coffee together, no funny stories, no stacks of poetry books on the table getting in her way, and none of those ridiculous little origami animals he always gives her.

So Frida is now lonely and grouchy, just thinking about this.

So she paints. A galloping zebra with orange stripes, its wild mane flying in the wind.

It just feels right.

(Turn page...)

Making a Movie

William, a student at Poets University, is making a movie. He's walking all over town with his HD professional camcorder.

He's full of great ideas!

His film should be about, of course, their Best Poets, or maybe Greatest Artists, or maybe their Most Mysterious Legends. Or maybe just Everyday Life?

The Sidewalk General runs back and forth on the sidewalk, hopping up and down and flapping her wings, as if to say: Me! Me! Me!

William sits and watches her for a while. Then he gets up and walks over to Frida's mural and gazes at it for a long, long time. He's in no hurry while he thinks about what he would like to do.

Then he starts his camcorder. He can hear music far, far off in the distance.

And then, suddenly, there's a deep rumble, then a roar, as everything in the mural starts to fly out and is sucked into his camcorder: dragons, zebras, watermelons, parrots, whole families....

"Whoa!" says William. He tries frantically to turn off his camcorder, but it's not working. Everything is happening so fast!

In just a few minutes, everything in Frida's mural has been sucked into William's camcorder, leaving miles and miles of blank white wall.

William is devastated. Frida will be so mad! He doesn't know what to do. So, he sits down in front of the white wall, the wall that Frida has been painting for years and years and years...

He sits, and the sun sets, and it gets darker and darker. William falls asleep. He awakes at dawn, just in time to see the sun's first warm rays striking the wall, filling it again with color and miracles, fruits and flowers, children and old friends, oceans and moons and dragons and everything that was there the day before.

Frida is smart. She remembers to back up her work each day.

(Turn page...)

Reunion

It's morning! Johnny, seeing that Pepe is awake, flips and splashes and starts singing softly.

Pepe jumps out of bed. "This is going to be a great day!" he says aloud. He peers out the window to admire the morning, and sees William walking by carrying his camcorder. Pepe quickly ducks down until William is out of sight.

Pepe likes William - he's a nice boy! But he'd really like to NOT be in William's New Ground-Breaking Documentary Film on the Creative Process, Part One. Sounds scary, Pepe thinks. He doesn't have a process! He just writes and lives life. It flows naturally. He doesn't like the idea of making everything a process. Let's not take all the fun out of it!

Pepe is back from his week at the Institute of Puns, where he spent the better part of two days convincing a fellow member that knock knock jokes, no matter how funny, actually do not really qualify as puns. Oy.

So now, he's off to meet Frida for breakfast! After a week apart, they have a lot to talk about over hot coffee and a basket of fresh croissants. He wants to know if the rumor is true about William, the camcorder, and Frida's mural...

He's been much too busy lately to make Frida any nice origami animals. He hopes she won't be too disappointed!

(Turn page...)

Summer Dreams

Pepe is wondering why he doesn't see roadrunners anymore? Or, at least where he lives. He used to see them all the time in his neighborhood, and even in town. They were his playmates when he was a boy, and he loves seeing them still. Where did they go? Certainly there are a few more houses here now, and the streets are a little busier...

At least they still have fireflies! He's heard about places where they've all but disappeared. He can't even imagine this! They decorate and illuminate his yard every summer evening, as plentiful and playful as when he was a boy.

And they still have their monarchs (the butterfly kind), plentiful, flourishing, happy, and sure of their paths. He's heard of places where their numbers, too, are greatly diminished, and they are unsure of their way.

Perhaps, if I asked her, Pepe thought, Frida could paint a few roadrunners in her mural, and maybe this will help bring them back?

(Turn page...)

Return of the Roadrunners

No one ever tells Frida what to paint! Never!

So when Pepe asks her to paint some roadrunners in her mural, she just stares at him. And then he gives her a little origami animal, something that looks vaguely like a bird. A roadrunner, she guesses. So now all she can do is cover her face with her hands and sigh.

Pepe elaborates:

"...and maybe a mother roadrunner, and a father, and a little nest with eggs..."

Frida is not so sure that this will bring the roadrunners back. It's not like her paintings are magic or anything!

And she already has a roadrunner or two in her mural, painted long ago.

But... maybe there are some art lover roadrunners out there, wherever they're hiding, and they'll come out to admire their new portraits, and Pepe will see them and be happy.

So, Frida paints a desert sunrise, purple and red and gold, with mountains in the distance, and the silhouettes of three racing roadrunners, in single file, as if they are returning from a long journey.

Pepe feels hopeful, and thanks Frida very much.

And the next morning, Pepe is delighted when he spots a roadrunner in his front yard, racing after a little lizard. Johnny sings a song of jubilation. The lizard darts under a rock.

And then Pepe sees another roadrunner, later that day, by the fountain in the Plaza.

Were they ever really gone?

(Turn page...)

More Things Gone Missing

It's a t-rribl- crisis! The Silv-roos, the Guardians of Vow-ls, hav- just discov-r-d that the l-tt-r "e"... is missing!

Th-y don't hav- any id-a what happ-n-d, or wh-r- it could possibly b-. And th-y f--l just t-rribl-!

Oops! Never mind! It seems to be back now.

N-w, what has happened t- the letter o?

(Turn page...)

Damage Control

Well, vowels e and o were gone for only a few minutes, e for ten minutes and o for less than five. But that was enough time to wreak havoc on thousands of poems-in-progress on this very busy and diligent Planet of Poets. E and o are used a lot. That's a lot of spaces to fill in.

The Silveroos have issued a formal statement:

We are currently investigating this issue and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

(Turn page...)

Transcendence

Frida is painting again this afternoon. Missing vowels don't affect her! In fact, she was completely unaware of the crisis.

And Pepe, fortunately, had been taking a walk at the time, admiring the swirls of red and brown and yellow leaves in the wind. He loves the fall.

He's remembering a cold, gray, wet fall day years ago, when he was a boy. He was walking through the piney woods near the edge of town. He heard, faintly, the sound of a violin being played, sad, eerie, and beautiful. There were several little houses in the woods, lights glowing warmly through their windows, but he was never able to find out where the music was coming from. It was getting dark, and he felt a little afraid, so he ran through the wet brown leaves back home. There he wrote is first truly transcendental poem, The Violin.

Now, even as a young boy, Pepe had been writing for years, just like most children on the Planet of Poets. But The Violin was special. It took you to that place in your heart you thought you had lost, and brought you back home again.

(Turn page...)

In the Garden

Frida is walking into town today. It's a beautiful breezy afternoon. She always passes through The Gardens on her way - she loves to walk among the cherry blossoms, tulips, bougainvillea, and roses. It's also a haven for hummingbirds, wild parrots, parakeets, love birds, and doves. She enjoys seeing them and brings pocketfuls of seed for them to eat.

Today, for the first time, she notices a painting on one of the white stucco walls surrounding the garden. It's a painting of a little blue dog with round yellow eyes. It seems to be peeking out at her from behind the red roses.

"What in the world!" she exclaims. She hears laughter, quickly turns around, and sees George. He's holding a little white card, sort of like a business card. A little dog is sitting by his side.

"Hello, George," she says warmly, holding out her hands. "Welcome home."

(Turn page...)

A Morning Of Messes

Pepe is up early. It's still dark. He has some great new ideas and can't wait to start writing! But first, he thinks, a big cup of coffee! I'll take it into my study and watch the sunrise.

Johnny is humming a little bit of Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Pepe's in his tiny kitchen. He fills up the kettle with water, and as he puts it on the stove he accidentally knocks over the open bag of coffee. Grounds spill everywhere - all over the counter, the floor, and his feet! What a mess.

Pepe grabs a sponge, but it takes at least two dozen wet, brown swipes and lots of water before all is clean again.

Except his feet! Pepe leaves a trail of brown footprints all the way to the bathtub. He sighs, steps into the bathtub and runs water over his feet.

Feet now clean, Pepe backtracks to the kitchen, cleaning up footprints all the way.

Coffee is made! Finally. Pepe fills his cup, sloshing just a little on the table, and takes his first big sip. Mmmmm. Then he glances down at his fresh, white shirt, and sees that it's not so fresh or white anymore - there are coffee stains all down the front!

"For crying out loud!" Pepe exclaims. Johnny switches to singing John Dowland's In Darkness Let Me Dwell. "Very funny!" Pepe says to him. He changes, putting on an old, soft, dark brown shirt. A good, safe color. He puts his white shirt in the sink to soak. Then he grabs his notebooks and pens and... off to the coffee house! He should have done this all along.

(Turn page...)

The Frog in the Lotus

One morning Pepe notices a tiny bright green frog sitting on the table where he folds and displays his origami. Actually, the frog is sitting in his origami, inside many intricate layers of delicate, symmetrical pink folds. He looks very comfortable.

The frog is completely motionless, except for his eyes, as he watches Pepe walk around the room. Pepe bends over and peers at the frog.

"I saw this little water lily," said the frog. "It only seemed natural to sit here."

"Well, actually, it's a lotus flower," corrected Pepe.

"So sorry," replied the frog. "A common mistake. They're both aquatic but belong to entirely different plant families."

"Still, very comfortable."

(Turn page...)

A Prescription for Bagpipes

Folks on the Planet of Poets are usually a pretty healthy bunch. If someone is feeling a little tired, a little run down, a little out-of-sorts, then it's more than likely that their doctor will write a prescription for bagpipe music.

For a mild case of the blahs, usually one piper will do. And, yes, he does make house calls!

For moderate to severe cases, three pipers, in full dress, almost always does the trick.

There was one stubborn case of note when an entire bagpipe marching band, with drummers, was needed, a full parade that marched up and down the street while the patient watched from an open window. Rumor has it that he was faking and just wanted a parade. But a good time was had by all.

(Turn page...)

Matilda

There's an artist on the Planet of Poets who paints with water. Not watercolors, just water.

He likes rainwater the best. He collects spring showers, summer storms, autumn fog, and melted winter snow. Downpours and drizzle, pools and puddles. A jar for each. Then, brush in hand, he paints, sometimes on special paper he makes himself, sometimes on canvas, sometimes on rocks and leaves.

His studio is a huge old brown barn, with windows all across one wall and skylights in the roof. Completed canvases lean in stacks against the walls.

No one really knows what he sees when he paints. Only he knows.

No one knows his name. He won't say, or doesn't know.

He has a little yellow canary named Matilda.

(Turn page...)

Wonders and Beauty of the World

Antonio, a friend of Pepe's, writes the most beautiful poems. His stanzas are mathematical equations. They're a thing of beauty to behold.

Pepe is quite skilled at reading them.

Advanced mathematics of every topic is enthusiastically taught and studied at Poets University. Little can surpass it as a language for revealing the wonders and beauty of the world.

(Turn page...)

Matilda and Johnny Collaborate

Matilda is visiting Johnny this morning. They're good friends. She's perched on the edge of Johnny's bowl next to the window. They've been singing duets all morning and it's time for a little break.

Johnny blows a little bubble, which floats to the top of his bowl. Kind of fun! So he blows another, and this gently floats up beside the first. Matilda watches and chirps happily.

Johnny blows a dozen little bubbles and admires how they sparkle in the bright morning sunlight. So he blows one more, the biggest yet, and is delighted when it slowly floats up out of the water and rises into the air.

"This is my big chance!" he thinks, and he jumps up out of his bowl, as high as he possibly can, and lands right inside the bubble! He's always wanted to fly, just like his friend Matilda! So, propelled by the gentle breeze from the open window, Johnny floats high above the room, while Matilda sings and soars and pirouettes around him. Then she carefully guides the bubble back to the bowl. The bubble pops, and Johnny plops back into the water.

Just then Pepe walks back in, a bag of croissants in one arm and a stack of books in the other.

"Hi Matilda! Hi Johnny!" he calls out cheerfully. "Beautiful morning! What's new?"

(Turn page...)

Capricciosa

Pepe has written poems of nearly every type and style:
Epic, Elegy, Ode...
Narrative, Dramatic, Satirical...
Haiku, Sijo, Rondeau...
Verse, Prose, Sonnet...
and the occasional Limerick.
But he's most famous for his very popular Pizza Sonnets.
Four volumes:
Margherita, Capricciosa, Diavola, Marinara.
They are, of course, love sonnets.

(Turn page...)

The Pizza Place

Pepe, Ngo, and Frida are having dinner together at The Pizza Place on the Plaza. The second you walk in you notice it smells just like... heaven! Frida knows - she's been there.

Inside the lights are low, there's a jazz trio playing on a small stage in the corner, and the tables are filled with happy, chatting customers.

People always ask Pepe if The Pizza Place was the inspiration for his famous Pizza Sonnets, but he always says, "No, I just like their pizza!"

The Pizza Sonnets aren't about pizza. They're about Frida.

This is where Pepe first met Frida, many, many years ago. She was sitting alone at a table, with a little white card in her hand, sort of like a business card. She was reading the menu. Pepe saw her and fell instantly in love.

He walked over to her table and introduced himself, and she invited him to sit down. They split a pizza. Pepe ate one slice, and Frida ate the rest - she was hungry! She eats pizza with the same energy and concentration she devotes to her painting, or for getting mad.

(Turn page...)

No More Necklaces of Thorns

Sometimes Frida paints for days at a time without stopping.
She paints and paints and paints...

The sun rises, the sun sets, the sun rises...

Sometimes she paints for so long she forgets to look up at the stars. Pepe has to remind her. Without a word, he'll gently take her hand and point up at the night sky.

Seeing the stars brings her back to earth.
Seeing the night sky fills her with light.
The wind in her face is cool water for her to drink.

The sun rises...

(Turn page...)

Shadow Painters

There's an old abandoned mill at the edge of town, close to the lake. One long, crumbling white wall faces west. In late afternoons, one hour before sunset, you can see the Shadow Painters working there.

You can't see the Painters themselves, only their shadows against the wall turned golden by the setting sun - silhouettes of people high up on ladders, holding brushes and carrying pots of paint, intent on their work. And it's quiet, so quiet...

As the sun fades, they fade. The wall is wiped clean by the night, and they start once again late the next day.

(Turn page...)

Inspiration

Pepe never runs out of ideas! He never has a "dry spell" when he can't think of anything to write. All he has to do is think about Frida, and he could write ten thousand sonnets...

...about her beauty, and her fiery temper, and her amazing laugh, and the sadness that still lingers deep inside her, and her deeper kindness.

And about how she hates to lose! To his knowledge, Frida has lost only once, to a small mockingbird.

And nobody holds a grudge like Frida! Whenever and wherever their paths cross, Frida narrows her eyes and strides defiantly past, and the Sidewalk General stands her ground and stares back with bright black beady eyes.

Pepe hopes there is never a rematch.

(Turn page...)

Much to Think About

Pepe's friend Ngo has a Guard Toad. It just showed up one morning a few weeks ago. It's sitting on the front porch, facing the door. Ngo has to step over it when he leaves the house each morning, and then again when he comes home.

The Guard Toad is perfectly motionless, except for its watchful eyes. While toads in general are pretty common, true Guard Toads are pretty rare. And they choose you - you can't beg, borrow, or hire one for love or money.

Ngo is puzzled. Why did the Guard Toad choose him? He's unsure why he needs guarding, or what the Toad would actually do if it perceived a threat of some sort. And threats are pretty rare on the Planet of Poets, and are usually limited to misguided attempts by some to learn to play the trombone.

And Ngo is now worried about inadvertently stepping on the squat, brown creature in a rush to go to a meeting or conference or seminar or lecture. Or symposium.

He wonders how long the Toad will stay.

Is this permanent?

Much to think about. Some research is needed.

(Turn page...)

Snow Day!

Today is a Snow Day! Pepe woke up this morning, looked out the window, and gazed upon a knee-deep blanket of fluffy white snow. Beautiful! The snow clouds have already cleared, and the morning sunlight makes the snow sparkle.

Pepe had planned to walk over to the Coffee House this morning and write, but now he plans to stay home... and write!

It almost feels like a holiday! Johnny is singing Henry Purcell's The Fairy-Queen. Pepe hears some children laughing and playing outside in the snow. So, cup of coffee now in hand, he walks back over to the window and looks out.

"That's Isabel, and Tomas, and Rosemary, I think. They're so bundled up it's hard to tell. It looks like they're building a snowman! And that's... Frida?"

Yes, it's Frida, with no gloves or mittens on, but a ring on each finger. She's outside with the neighborhood kids, helping them build a snowman. Actually, she's dressing it, and it's a snow woman, adorned now in a large, wide-brimmed straw hat covered in silk flowers, a bright red knit scarf, and a long purple cape with yellow plaid lining.

The Best Dressed Snow Woman on the Planet!

(Turn page...)

Lost Things Day

Something interesting always happens on the Planet of Poets right after the First Snow melts: everyone finds something they lost.

It could be in the grass in the park, or the playground, or in front of the Library, or in front yards or back yards. Melting snow reveals lost keys, bracelets and rings, Grandma's locket, toys, sunglasses, gloves and mittens and hats and umbrellas. Whatever was lost, no matter how or where it was lost, it is found again by its owner, and looking brand new! Even books return fresh and clean and untouched by the elements.

Hey, what's that in the grass?!!!

(Turn page...)

Things Found

Frida and Pepe and Ngo are sitting together at the Coffee House. They're having a good time listening to the people around them talk about what they found on Lost Things Day.

"Keys!"
"Eyeglasses!"
"Sense of humor!"
"Perspective!"
"False teeth!"

Pepe and Ngo and Frida look at each other.

"What did you find?" Ngo asks Pepe.

"I found the book I lost, Really Super Easy Origami for Beginners!" Pepe replies happily.

Frida rolls her eyes.

Pepe continues. "Yes, one day I just couldn't find it! I guess I must have dropped it on my way home, or left it behind somewhere."

Ngo, ever observant, notices that Frida is avoiding looking at them, and instead seems to be extremely interested in another conversation far across the room. Ngo ponders that Lost Things Day also includes Things Swiped and Hidden Under the Mattress....

(Turn page...)

The Troupe

While his origami how-to book was missing, Pepe attempted some interesting creations of his own design. And Pepe has boundless creativity and vision! This produced a series of tiny, asymmetric, and unidentifiable creatures of his imagination. He's very proud of them, in almost a fatherly sort of way. He placed them all in a row on the windowsill near Johnny's bowl.

Johnny has been studying the paper menagerie for several weeks. He's decided to name them:

Ferdinand
Miranda
Alonzo
Antonio
Sebastian
Trinculo
Stephano
Gonzalo
Caliban
Iris
and Ariel.


They've been waiting!
"Sounds and sweet airs that give delight but hurt not..."
It's time for a play.

(Turn page...)

Alex's Animals

Frida's friend, Alex, carves small, fanciful animals out of wood. He paints and decorates them in bright, beautiful colors and dazzling, intricate patterns. He's a master artisan, and his carved animals are in great demand. Frida bought or bartered for at least two dozen of them over the years. She just loves them, and she proudly displays them on shelves against the bright blue walls of her home:

Owls, anteaters, and eagles,
armadillos, elephants, and deer,
roosters, panthers, and foxes,
turtles, lizards, and dragons,
hummingbirds,
dogs and cats,
skunks and otters.

Lately, however, Pepe has placed among them about a dozen of his origami animals, little presents for Frida. It only seemed natural to him that his paper animals, and Alex's carved and painted animals, should reside side-by side.

Frida looks at them with mixed love and exasperation.

(Turn page...)

Gabriel

Alex has a little pet horned toad named Gabriel. Gabriel lives in Alex's studio. He marches about like a mini-triceratops and watches Alex work, or suns himself in the windowsill, eyes closed in bliss. Gabe has been the inspiration and model for many of Alex's carvings. Whenever Alex takes a little break, he'll walk over and gently stroke Gabe's back with his forefinger and talk to him.

Gabe is an old, old horned toad, as old as the hills. He's so very tired now. He loves Alex very much, and they've been together for many, many years. But he knows it's now time for him to go.

This morning Alex turns from his carving and walks over to the windowsill to visit with his little amigo, but this time Gabe's eyes remain shut. Alex strokes Gabe's back with his finger one last time, then gently lifts him up, places him in a little carved box, and walks out into the garden.

(Turn page...)

Angel Gabriel

The Angel Gabriel (yes, holding his horn) and Alex's little amigo Angel Gabriel (the little horned toad) are sitting side-by-side on the low stone wall, in the sun, in the garden.

Angel Gabriel is playing A Foggy Day in London Town on his horn, and little Angel Gabe's eyes are closed in bliss.

(Turn page...)

Taking it Slow

There's a man on the Planet of Poets named ɹǝɥdoʇsᴉɹɥƆ. He likes to write his poems backwards, letters in reverse. He can write them the regular way, but he likes doing it this way. But if it's hard for you to read them, hold the pages of one of his books to a mirror.

If you ever have one of those days when you feel like things are moving too fast, read one or two of s,ɹǝɥdoʇsᴉɹɥƆ poems. This always helps!

(Turn page...)

Letters from Friends

On the Planet of Poets, folks still write letters! Imagine that. And when Pepe was a boy, he just loved getting letters, and he still does - letters from friends, letters from colleagues, even letters from Aunt Lupe! He remembers how he used to wait by the window when he was a boy and watch for the mailman. (The mailman, by the way, is also quite a fine poet himself. His poem about being chased by an iguana while delivering the mail is a big favorite of almost everyone.)

Pepe is thinking back about one of his old favorite letters from his friend Inez, written when she was a young girl. She wrote that she didn't like chocolate syrup on apple pie, even though she liked chocolate syrup on almost everything!

And she still does.

(Turn page...)

Gotta Dance!

Pepe and Ngo have gotten together to watch an old classic cult film they enjoyed as students. They're having a great time! They're just coming up to their favorite part of the movie where the unsuspecting couple is walking down the secluded path at night, and a giant tarantula, ten feet tall, jumps out of the bushes! The couple, as expected, recoils in horror. But then the tarantula starts to tap dance while singing Sweet Georgia Brown. It's actually an easy-going kind of giant tarantula, just trying to break into the business.

(Turn page...)

Professor or Porcupine

Poetry Slams, Poetry Jams, Poetry Marathons, and...
The Poetry Olympics!

These are the organized sports on the Planet of Poets. Although folks do like to walk, and hike, and take frequent excursions to the mountains, woods, and beach. Regular exercise is important.

Teams for all the various regions are represented in the Poetry Olympics: Sonnets, Odes, Haiku, and Limericks, to name just a few.

Winners, of course, receive honor and glory!

And anyone can participate: old or young, mailman or chef, professor or porcupine. A fun time is had by all.

(Turn page...)

Street Art

The big Street Art Celebration is today! It's a much anticipated annual event on the Planet of Poets. This year they decided to do Angelou Boulevard, all the way to the Plaza!

Artists from far and wide show up early in the morning with their paints and brushes and spray cans to claim their section of street. And then... they're off!

By noon the street is a river and riot of color that goes on for miles and miles: fauvismmodernismcubismsurrealismdadaexpressionismminimalismpop
naturalismpointilismoutsiderconstructivismdoodlesimpressionism....


And fingerpainting.

(Turn page...)

Dragon Kittens

Beautiful Lucy Haiku was walking through the woods when she came across a litter of seven small dragon kittens: fuzzy, pink and orange, with tiny little wings and a striped tail. They were sleeping in a nest that was almost completely hidden by ferns.

"They are the cutest things!" Lucy exclaimed. She bent over and carefully picked one up and cradled it in her hands. Still asleep, it hiccuped a little wisp of blue smoke. Lucy placed it back in the nest beside its six little brothers and sisters.

When dragon kittens are very young they are covered in soft pink and orange fur. When they are older, they lose their pastel fuzz, revealing beautiful iridescent scales that change color with the changing light and their capricious moods.

Then suddenly, swooping down from the sky, the mother returned! She landed beside Lucy and folded her enormous wings.

"Hi Lucy!" she said. Her voice was soft and melodic."Hi Berengaria!" Lucy replied. "Beautiful babies!"

Berengaria wrapped herself around the nest and purred contentedly.

(Turn page...)

Joy!

Today Pepe and Frida are having a nice lunch together at a little outdoor café on the Plaza. They're enjoying the good food, the pleasant spring weather, and watching all the people riding bicycles or strolling by.

Suddenly a girl zips by on a shiny red motor scooter, her long hair and flowery silk scarf flying in the wind.

This catches Frida's attention. Pepe has seen that look in her eyes before!

"Did you see that little red scooter?" Frida asks Pepe. "Where can I get one of those?"

Finished with their meal, Pepe and Frida walk over to the Market, Frida in the lead and impatiently tugging Pepe along by the hand. There they find dozens of scooters lined up in neat rows, shining brightly in the sun. Some have colorful ribbons dangling from the handlebars, and some have baskets or ornately tooled leather saddlebags.

Frida speaks earnestly with the dealer, and in a few minutes she's sitting on a red scooter, with ribbons on the handlebars, and a basket, of course! And Pepe is now sitting behind her, as ordered. And... she's off! And laughing with joy.

The rest Pepe will never forget!

(Turn page...)

Fun Makes You Young!

Pepe hasn't seen Frida very much for the past week!

And when he does, it's only a quick flash of red, a beep!beep! of a horn, and a happy wave as she zips by on her new scooter.

Pepe politely declined additional invitations to ride with her. And although at first he saw many of Frida's friends riding along behind her, wide-eyed and panicky, or eyes tightly shut and holding their breath, more often than not she's riding by herself now, and still having the most fun. The only person to ride with her more than once is Lucy, who is beautifully serene under almost any circumstance.

When Pepe does catch a glimpse of Frida riding by, he notices that she is still wearing her long full skirts and lace petticoats and brightly colored scarves and flowers in her hair. "She's like a one-woman parade," thinks Pepe. "She's a joy to see!"

As Frida flies by again, Pepe thinks how much she looks like a 15 year old girl. Fun makes you young!

(Turn page...)

Getting Even

Pepe isn't the only one who has been watching Frida fly around town on her new motor scooter - the Sidewalk General has been watching, too!

She was on patrol, as usual, on her customary stretch of sidewalk in front of the Coffee House when she first saw Frida fly by: a flash of red and a full ruffled skirt and lace petticoats and sparkly necklaces and many, many shining silver bracelets. And a ring on each finger.

At the end of the block Frida quickly turned around and raced past the Coffee House again, much too fast for the Sidewalk General to even think about trying to catch up with her! And then again, and again! Frida made a dozen passes in front of the Sidewalk General, at least, beeping her horn merrily each time. The Sidewalk General could only watch, feet planted wide apart on the sidewalk, her shiny black eyes following Frida up and down the road.

Everyone inside the Coffee House watched the whole thing from the windows. Wonderful! Amazing! Extraordinary! Within minutes pens raced across paper as the first batch of poems commemorating the event were written...

(Turn page...)

The Orange Tree

Beautiful Lucy Haiku is tending her rose bushes. She loves roses! She has a beautiful rose garden at her little house, and she lovingly cares for them each day. She's rewarded with lovely fragrant blooms: yellow, pink, red, lavender, peach, orange, and white.

Last spring Pepe gave Lucy a gift of a little orange tree. She was delighted! Pepe helped her plant it in a sunny spot in her garden, where she hopes it will be happy and flourish.

When she's finished tending her roses for the day, she sits for a while on a little garden bench and spends some time in quiet happiness.

(Turn page...)

The Most Perfect Gift

Frida is working on her mural today.

She's painting the Tree of Life.

It's a beautiful tree, with green leafy branches reaching wide across the sky. The tree is filled with colorful parrots, cockatoos, and birds of paradise, and its roots reach deep into the earth, seeking crystal water from pure underground springs. And sweet ripe juicy oranges, warmed by the golden sun, hang by the dozens from its many branches.

Children play beneath the tree while a little dog, white with brown spots, chases its tail. And there's Beautiful Lucy Haiku as a young girl, standing on tiptoe, reaching high above her head for an orange.

(Turn page...)

Lucy's Garden

The little orange tree is SO happy in its new home in Lucy's sunny garden, surrounded by beautiful roses! It also loves when Lucy sits down beside it on her little garden bench. It can sense her gentle, happy presence.

It's not lonely anymore. It feels itself slowly starting to blossom...

(Turn page...)

Sock Monkey

Pepe thinks it would be very nice to have a dog! He's been thinking about it for quite a while. While he's sitting outside at the café on the Plaza, drinking coffee with Frida, he often sees people pass by walking their dogs, and the dogs walking their people! It looks like everyone is having so much fun!

"Johnny," he asks, "don't you think it would be fun to have a puppy?"

Johnny blows a bubble. Pepe doesn't know if this means yes, no, or maybe.

On the Planet of Poets there really are no "pets". (Although they are sometimes called that!) But actually dogs and cats, hamsters and canaries, turtles and fish are full members of a family and choose you, not the other way around. You have to be ready, and they know if you are or not.

And so the next morning Pepe opens his front door and sees a little purple dachshund puppy sitting on his front step, looking up at him and wagging his tail. His name is Elvis. It was love at first sight for both of them!

And now Pepe and Elvis are walking into town together, for coffee and croissants and a new water bowl and doggie treats.

And after a long, exciting day full of adventure, Elvis is curled up in his new doggie bed, beside the orange sock monkey that Pepe bought for him. He loves his sock monkey!

(Turn page...)

No More Time for Origami!

Johnny and Elvis are getting along famously. Elvis likes to stand up on his hind legs and put his nose right up against Johnny's bowl. And Johnny sees two happy brown eyes peering at him, magnified through the lens of his glass bowl. Elvis is mesmerized by Johnny's graceful underwater ballet and will watch him by the hour. But usually he sits at Pepe's side and watches him write. Not much excitement there! And so he falls asleep, content just to be near Pepe.

The BIG excitement is when he sees Frida! She is already very fond of Elvis and always has a pocketful of treats for him. Once she even let him ride with her on her little red motor scooter, tucked inside the wicker basket in front. Oh, the marvelous wind! And the wonderful scents in the air rushing by so fast!

It was the most fun he ever had!

(Turn page...)

Elvis' First Festival

Pepe, Frida, Ngo, and, of course, Elvis are going to the Chocolate Festival today. It's held every year in the spring, and as you can expect, it's very popular! Folks come from far and wide to compete... and to eat!

Pastry chefs, chocolate artists, cooks, moms and dads and kids come from every corner of the Planet of Poets to enter their chocolate creations. The categories are:
candies, cookies, brownies, truffles, pastries, souffles, and "surprise us"!

Pepe's childhood friend, Inez, competes every year. She is devoted to chocolate and became a most accomplished pastry chef. Pepe always looks forward to seeing her. She always has a smile, a happy laugh, a good joke or a story to tell, and something divine and chocolaty to eat! She and Frida are also good friends, and right now they're hugging and laughing and sharing recipes.

This is Elvis' first Festival, and he's delighted by the crowd and the excitement and all the good things to smell. He and Pepe stroll from booth to booth, sampling chocolate treats from simple chocolate chip cookies to rich and exotic truffles.

Ngo is enjoying watching a small group of children, all brothers and sisters, he surmises, with chocolaty faces and fingers, laughing, singing, and dancing. Ngo smiles and laughs too, chocolate cupcake in hand.

It's the day to indulge! And not just with chocolate, but with sunshine, fresh air, family, friends, and fun.

And wait! They're about to announce the winners! Ooh, can I taste that?

(Turn page...)

Everything is Fresh and New

Pepe sees everything differently since Elvis came into his life. For Elvis, everything is fresh and new, all experiences are exciting, and he's learning all the time. He's curious about everything! So now Pepe is seeing things in a fresh, new way again.

Pepe likes to take Elvis to new places: the library, the park, Lucy's garden, Frida's house. Elvis even went along with Pepe to the Institute of Puns, where he roamed all over the island and investigated every nook and cranny. The gargoyles adorning the old cathedral-like building alarmed him at first! He barked, but the gargoyles remained motionless and at a distance, so Elvis trotted away content, wagging his tail.

Elvis thinks everything is wonderful! Butterflies, bees, even his first bath! He tried to jump out of the water to catch some floating soap bubbles, and Pepe got as wet as Elvis. They had so much fun.

(Turn page...)

Berengaria's Gift

Elvis' shiny, soft purple fur is not unusual on the Planet of Poets. Dogs come in every color of the rainbow, and even a few colors that aren't, but should be, like bright lime green with pink polka dots. Cats, too, can be red, yellow, orange, or blue. And red setters are really red, but there are also blue setters and purple setters.

And, of course, pink poodles!

Legend has it that ages ago all dogs and cats (and hamsters and rabbits) were mostly shades of brown, white, black, or gray, with occasionally a little rusty red or orange thrown in.

But one evening there was the most incredible, spectacular, dazzling aurora ever seen on the Planet of Poets. Auroras, like sunrises and sunsets, are created by the ancient dragon Berengaria, who uses her fiery breath to infuse the sky with brilliant color. The entire night sky glowed and flashed and danced with color, lasting until dawn.

The next morning the first purple pup was born. Soon after there were more, of every color imaginable, happy and healthy and looking like bunch of bouncing jelly beans.

Awesome! Berengaria was very please.

(Turn page...)

Elvis and the Toad

Pepe and Elvis are visiting Ngo today! The Guard Toad is sitting on the front step, as usual, and Pepe carefully steps over him before going inside.

Elvis, however, remains outside. He's curious about the Toad! The Guard Toad remains motionless, regarding Elvis. Elvis sits motionless, regarding the Toad. He smells freshly brewed coffee and hears Pepe and Ngo talking inside.

Pepe visits frequently and the Guard Toad is accustomed to seeing him. But this is the first time he's seen Elvis! He studies the purple pup carefully. He perceives no threat.

Elvis studies the squat brown Toad carefully. Sniffing the air, he perceives no threat, but still remains at a cautious distance. It doesn't seem likely to him that the Toad might like to play, or chase a ball around the yard, or roll around in the grass, or explore the shrubbery.

Much to think about.

(Turn page...)

The Vending Machine

There it was! The Vending Machine. It just suddenly appeared yesterday morning in the Plaza.

A curious crowd of people gathered around to inspect it. What in the world? What is it? No one had ever seen anything like it before.

Inside the Vending Machine were all the nice things you could buy, attractively displayed behind polished glass. It seems that you put in a coin, press a button, and your desired item drops into a tray at the bottom, where you retrieve it.

There were delicious chocolates wrapped in gold paper, and little frosted cakes so soft and fresh it was like there was a tiny bakery inside! And books, of course - small volumes of poems from their most beloved poets - lovely little gifts! And an assortment of small toys: yo-yos, tops, and dolls. And little packages of doggie treats!

It was almost like magic!

Courtesy of Angel Vending Company, LLC.

And, funny, when you put in a coin, you always get two back in change!

(Turn page...)

Two Haiku

When Pepe wakes up this morning, the first thing he notices is a little white card, sort of like a business card, lying on the floor beside Elvis' bed. Something is written on it, in gold letters. Elvis is still fast asleep, snoring little quick doggie snores.

And in his study, leaning against Johnny's bowl on his desk, is another little white card. "Well, I'll be!" exclaims Pepe. "Elvis and Johnny are having a Haiku Day, and on the same day!" Pepe never realized before that dogs could also have a Haiku Day.

Elvis wakes up when he hears Pepe making coffee in the kitchen. He sees the little white card on the floor and wonders what it is. Is it something he can eat? Or chew on? Wagging his tail, he pushes the card around the floor with his nose.

Pepe picks the card up off the floor. "Happy Haiku Day, Elvis! Would you like me to read it to you?"

Johnny, who learned to read years ago, has already read his Haiku. It's going to be a great day!

"Well, boys! " Pepe says to Johnny and Elvis, "This calls for a celebration!"

Suddenly there's a knock on the door. When Pepe opens it, there's Lucy with her guitar! And Frida with a cake and pocketfuls of treats. And Matilda flies in, perches on Johnny's bowl, and starts singing. And all of their neighbors from up and down the street are there. And there's music and dancing - in the house, in the yard, and in the street! Lucy plays her guitar and sings a special song she wrote just for Elvis and Johnny. Johnny flips and splashes, enjoying the music and the fun, and Elvis runs round and round the yard, playing with all his friends.

(Turn page...)

The Guard Toad Joins the Party

Even though Pepe's house is pretty far away from Ngos' house, the Guard Toad can hear the big Haiku Day party. He can hear music and singing and laughing! Everyone sounds like they're having so much fun. He wishes he could be there, too. Not much fun, right now, sitting here staring at Ngo's front door all by himself. Ngo is at the party, too. It seems like he's been sitting on this step for a million years.

Pepe and Ngo and Frida are sitting on Pepe's front porch, telling stories and laughing and enjoying the music and eating big slices of Frida's divine chocolate cake. Suddenly, Pepe stops and points at his front step. "Well, I'll be!" exclaims Ngo softly. No one knows what to say or do next, so Frida slices another piece of cake, puts in on a plate, and sets it on the step next to the Toad.

Welcome to the party!

(Turn page...)

Amphibian Physics

Not very much is known about Guard Toads. So, one little-known fact is that they can be two places at the same time, or sometimes even three! They don't do this very often, because it takes a lot of energy. And they believe in conservation of energy (it's a law, you know) as well as conservation of other things.

But because of their extreme dedication to duty, they rarely leave their appointed posts. So, being able to be two places at the same time allows them to have a little fun.

The Guard Toad is extremely pleased with the piece of chocolate cake that Frida gave him. The gooey, sweet icing is attracting a few flies!

(Turn page...)

Caught by the Wind

There are many wonderful things about the Planet of Poets, way too many to list! But one small, wonderful thing is... NO LEAF BLOWERS!

That's right! No obnoxious roar, no stinky gasoline fumes, no dust or dirt or who-knows-what blowing around in great gray clouds in the air, getting in your eyes, in your nose, and in your hair!

Leaves are not the enemy on the Planet of Poets! No one can even imagine such a thing. Leaves fall where they may and it's okay. But if you want to rake them into a big pile and jump in, that's okay, too! (The last time Frida did that she lost a shoe. You can only imagine how that went!)

A falling leaf is a beautiful thing, one solitary leaf or one thousand, caught by the wind and swirling and dancing in the air.

(Turn page...)

Komuhumuhu

This morning Elvis is sitting in the chair in Pepe's study and looking out the window. He's listening to the leaves fall.

Funny, though - it's Spring, not Fall!

But on the Planet of Poets there's an unusual kind of tree, a very special kind of tree, that blooms in the winter and loses is leaves in the spring. The ground beneath it becomes a glorious carpet of shimmering red and gold.

In Winter, it always blooms after the First Snow: delicate pink cascades of blossoms with the most heavenly fragrance.

But that's not all! Each leaf that falls produces a soft musical tone, very similar to a celesta. A light breeze can produce a simple melody of leaves, while a good, strong gust can often create marvelously complex counterpoint.

The blossoms, too, make soft, bell-like tones as they open, and then again as they drift to the ground.

It's called the komuhumuhu tree. It's been an inspiration for thousands of poems and paintings and songs. And new parents often name their baby girls Komuhumuhu, the fifth most popular name after Hermione, Persephone, Penelope, and Hildegard.

Pepe is very lucky to have a komuhumuhu tree in his yard!

Years ago, when this part of town was more woods than houses, Pepe discovered the tree during one of his morning walks. It was barely more than a twig growing in the rich, grassy soil, but Pepe knew immediately what it was. That's when he decided to build his little house here.

And now, years later, there are lots of houses! And a paved street and wide sidewalks. But still lots of trees.

And the sapling now has grown from a twig, with just a few blossoms, into a glorious tree, giving Pepe, and the world, cool shade, beauty, and music.

(Turn page...)

Butterfly Celebration

Pepe, Ngo, and, of course, Elvis are walking over to see Frida's mural today. Pepe knows that she's been painting a lot this past month, and they always like to see what's new.

As they approach the mural they see Frida's little red scooter parked in front, but Frida is nowhere in sight! She must be taking a break, Pepe guesses, and walked away for a moment for a stretch and a snack.

Pepe and Ngo admire the newest section of mural, and Elvis runs off to chase a bright orange butterfly that playfully stays just out of his reach. After a minute Elvis is back again, this time chasing a blue butterfly with yellow stripes. Pepe remarks on how beautiful it is - he doesn't remember ever seeing one like that before!

Frida has just finished painting a strange and beautiful forest, dark and bright, familiar and mysterious. It's filled with huge tropical flowers and spectacular birds-of-paradise. What Pepe and Ngo find truly amazing is the detail with which Frida has painted the hundreds, maybe thousands of leaves! They are every color imaginable and actually seem to flutter in the breeze.

They look more closely. The leaves are actually... butterflies! Each one is painted meticulously and looks absolutely real: Monarchs and Painted Ladies, Woodland Skippers and Emerald Swallowtails, Peacock Pansies and Isabella's Longwings, Banded Purplewings and hundreds of others just as amazing, beautiful, and exotic.

While Pepe and Ngo are busy admiring the painting, their noses just mere inches from the wall, Frida returns and quietly walks to her scooter. Then... beep!beep!

Frida honks the horn, and suddenly thousands of butterflies fly out of the mural and into the air, so the sky looks like it's filled with rainbow confetti for the biggest celebration you could ever imagine! Elvis jumps up and down and barks with joy. Pepe and Ngo have never seen anything like it, and Frida laughs when she sees how delighted and enchanted they are.

(Turn page...)

Simple or Fancy?

It's morning!

And Frida is still in her big feather bed, gazing up at the white lace canopy. Dappled sunlight is shining through the white lace curtains as they move in the gentle morning breeze.

What would I like to do today? Frida muses. She has four big feather pillows on her bed, and silky soft white sheets, and a fluffy white comforter, light as a cloud.

Coffee with Pepe first, of course.

What should I wear? Do I feel simple or fancy today?

Fancy, I think.

No, simple: my white eyelet lace dress and sandals, and a shawl, the sky blue one with the pink embroidered flowers...

No, fancy: my red dress with the tiered ruffles...

No, simple! A white silk tunic and pajama pants and the blue and gold kimono, the one with dragons on it, and gold slippers...

No, fancy! My black silk and organza tea-length dress...

Just then Matilda, our little yellow canary friend, flies in through the open bedroom window and lands gracefully on top of Frida's dresser mirror. She starts to sing.

That settles it! Frida is now out of bed and she's wearing a yellow chiffon dress, sunny, light, and bright, and a ring on each finger, many silver bracelets, and yellow silk ribbons in her shining dark hair.

Simple and fancy and just perfect.

(Turn page...)

Come Visit Me...

Fernando is a great poet.

He also can't walk.

In his old life, Fernando couldn't walk. When he became an angel and came to live on the Planet of Poets, he decided that he didn't want to walk, just as before. He said it is very much a part of who he is.

But he can still get around just fine! When he wants to go into town he rides a little scooter, just like Frida's. His is blue.

And he gets around his house just fine, too, floating from place to place with just a gentle push of his hands.

In his home he is weightless.

It's a special house. It takes some visitors a little bit of time to get used to it, because just as they walk inside they immediately begin to float! So Fernando has made sure that there are plenty of things for them to grab hold of when they walk in the door until they get used to things. All furniture is anchored firmly to the ground. But most folks get the hang of it quickly and have great fun.

Fernando always says: If you're feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, come visit me.

(Turn page...)

You May Never Know...

So what could there possibly be
On the Planet of Poets
That could ever make people feel unhappy?
There is no crime.
The worst crime is making a bad cup of coffee!
Streets are safe.
The air and water are clean.
Trees and flowers grow everywhere!
Folks rarely get sick. Maybe a sniffle.
Not everyone agrees on everything all the time,
Or likes everyone,
But they get along.
And it's quiet.
And full of music.
Folks have fun.
There's always something to do.

Perfect, yes?

But some folks on the Planet of Poets,
Angels who live there,
May have had lives before filled with pain
And sadness
And loneliness.
Evens as Angels, they may still carry a little bit of that
In their hearts.
They still remember Before.
And, for most, it makes the peace they feel now
Even more dear.
They can be good friends.
You may not even know they're an Angel.

(Turn page...)

The Most Natural Thing in the World

Frida's in her kitchen. She's just finished making rice pudding, creamy and delicious and fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. She sets the bowl on the big wooden table to cool.

Outside her kitchen window, on a twig at the end of a tree branch, is a tiny silhouette. It's a hummingbird.

Frida has a feeling it's been watching her. She can't be sure. Just a feeling. It's been there all week. Sometimes it disappears for a little while, but it always comes back.

Frida turns around and returns to her cooking. She refuses to look over her shoulder. Outside the window the sun is setting. The hummingbird is a tiny dark shadow against the gold and crimson sunset.

Frida pulls the curtains shut.

The hummingbird watches Frida's silhouette behind the curtains as she rolls out dough for an apple pie.

Later that night an owl flies into the tree and sits on the branch near the hummingbird. "What are you doing?" it asks.

"Watching," replies the hummingbird.

"What are you watching? It's dark. The moon won't rise for hours tonight."

The hummingbird remains silent. The windows of Frida's house are dark now. She's gone to sleep. The owl watches the hummingbird watch the house. Hours later the moon starts to rise.

The next morning Frida is up and dressed and ready to go out. She walks out the back door and looks up. And yes! There's the hummingbird! It turns it's head to look at her. Wrapped in a fringed turquoise blue shawl, she decides to sit down in the chair beneath the tree. Let's see, she thinks. She takes a small book out of her bag, opens it, and starts to read.

Moments later, the little bird flies out of the tree, its wings a blur, and lands on Frida's head. It's a tiny iridescent jewel in her shining, dark hair. She closes her book and carefully puts it back in her bag.

A short while later, Pepe looks up and sees Frida as she walks into the Coffee House. It's now nearly noon. He says nothing about the little hummingbird in her hair as she orders brioche and coffee.

It seems like the most natural thing in the world.

If you're Frida.

Frida has a hummingbird feeder hanging in the tree behind her house now, filled with sweet, sugary nectar.

(Turn page...)

Penguin or Pelican

Beautiful Lucy Haiku is taking her morning walk in the woods. It's cool, and quiet, and new, fresh, spring green leaves are starting to come out on the trees. Lovely.

Lucy spies a small bird nest in a tree, in a branch low enough for her to take a peek. Inside the nest are three small speckled blue eggs. The mama bird is nowhere in sight.

On her walk the following morning Lucy looks in the nest again. She's curious to see if the eggs have hatched yet! But, strangely enough, today there are four pink eggs in the nest. Lucy wonders if this is the same nest she found yesterday. She's very sure it is.

So, the next morning, more curious than ever, Lucy visits the nest again. Now there are two large white eggs!

And then six tiny violet eggs the next.

"How strange, and how wonderful!" exclaims Lucy. She has no doubt now that there will be different eggs for every day of the year, or maybe for each day of every year.

Lucy has discovered an Inventory Nest. For every kind of bird that has ever existed, the Inventory Nest accounts for them all: penguin or pelican, chickadee or barn owl.

(Turn page...)

Lucy's Altar

Lucy has a little table in her house, in the corner of her living room next to a window. There's a mirror hanging above it, in a tin frame decorated with painted hummingbirds.

A vase of red roses from her garden sits the table, and a candle in a red glass votive.

And a jewelry box made out of popsicle sticks and decorated with seashells that her little sister made for her long ago, and her favorite picture of her mother and father.

And a tiny painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a silver frame, and a white china kitten with a pink nose.

(Turn page...)

Amusement

There's been some talk lately at the Coffee House about some plans to build an amusement park in town.

An amusement park? What in the world is that? There's been much speculation about what it could possibly be. Very few folks on the Planet of Poets have difficulty keeping amused.

They already have parks with gardens and fountains, parks with swings and swimming pools, parks where you can walk your dog or play frisbee, and parks with ponds where you can feed the ducks or play chess.

What else could there be?

(Turn page...)

News Flash!

Petroglyphs have been discovered in a cave in the mountains! They may be the oldest prehistoric cave paintings yet found.

And what's more, they may have also discovered the world's oldest poem! It's painted on the cave wall, faint, but still readable. Experts are busy deciphering it now.

More later on this developing story...

(Turn page...)

Silk Pajamas

Pepe is meeting Frida at her house this morning, and then they're going out for coffee. He's careful not to get there too early! He knocks on the door, and after a few minutes Frida opens it. Pepe feels a moment of panic. Something must be terribly wrong!

Frida is still in her silk pajamas and kimono, and her long hair is loose around her shoulders. But she still has a ring on each finger! That's a good sign, Pepe thinks to himself. He's never seen Frida, ever, without her hair braided and piled high on top of her head, or pulled back in a soft chignon. And he's never seen her in pajamas!

"Are you okay? Is something the matter? Are you feeling unwell?" Pepe asks anxiously. He steps inside and Frida closes the door.

Frida is very well. Indeed, she's never felt better! She hands Pepe a piece of letter paper. There's writing on both sides.

"I've written a poem!" says Frida. It's for you. I've never written one before. I just woke up this morning and the words were suddenly there and I had to start writing and it took me all morning."

Pepe see a half-eaten piece of toast on the table, and a cold cup of coffee, untouched. He looks down at the piece of paper in his hands, his eyes too full of tears to read.

(Turn page...)

Water Folk

The Planet of Poets has poets, of course, on land, but there are also poets in the sea! In the wide, deep ocean, near a small cluster of rocky islands, live the mermaids, and mermen, too, of the Planet of Poets.

Their poetry is unique and very distinctive to them, and very, very beautiful. You can hear the ebb and flow of tides in each verse, and the sparkle of the sun and moon on the water, and terrifying power, and the deepest, bluest silence.

The Land Folk and the Water Folk often meet to catch up on news, exchange ideas, and share their poetry. That's why we have so many fine volumes of poetry from the Water Folk, carefully and lovingly transcribed by the Land Folk.

And the Water Folk, who have no use for paper and pen, listen to each new poem recited by the Land Folk and commit them instantly to memory. Later, they carve them onto tablets of jade in their shimmering libraries on the ocean floor.

At least the poems they really like. They're pretty choosy!

And yes, Pepe's much-loved Pizza Sonnets are engraved on an entire towering jade wall in the library beneath the deep blue ocean.

The mermaids and mermen often wonder about the Frida in Pepe's sonnets. They would very much like to meet her someday! She is a legend and an ongoing subject of curiosity, admiration, and animated conversation.

(Turn page...)

Unexpectedly

Frida's not feeling very much like a legend today! She was awakened early (too early!) by a morning thunderstorm. The wind had blown the bedroom windows open and she got completely soaked before she could close and latch them again.

But it's nothing that a long, hot bubble bath can't cure! And soothed by lavender-scented suds and dressed in one of her favorite outfits, Frida is now happily off to the Coffee House. The cool, rain-washed air smells wonderful.

Frida notices something strange as she approaches the Coffee House. The windows appear dark! And the front door is... locked? And in one window is a small sign: CLOSED.

"What in the world!" exclaims Frida. The Coffee House is never closed! She's never known a time when it was, ever! All the coffee houses are open all the time, every day. To many they are a second home.

Frida walks from window to window and tries to peer in. Too dark! Then she walks 'round the back and tries the other door. It's locked, too.

Frida is completely at a loss, a very unaccustomed feeling for her.

Suddenly the back door opens, and Beautiful Lucy Haiku steps out into the radiant morning.

"Lucy!" Frida runs over to her friend. "What's wrong?" Suddenly she feels very afraid.

"It's Aida", replies Lucy.

"Is she okay?" Frida asks.

"Yes, she's doing fine. And so are the twins!"

Aida started working at the Coffee House several years ago, and then several months ago happily discovered that she was expecting! And this morning, unexpectedly, while carrying a basket of croissants a table while the storm raged outside, Aida went into labor. Pepe ran to get her husband, and the doc was there in a flash.

The Coffee House reopened that evening. There was a big party to welcome little Sofia and Isabel!

(Turn page...)

White Sandy Beach

Frida has a secret.

No, not a deep, dark secret! Just a secret. And something that she doesn't want anyone to know... yet.

She bought a ukulele.

She saw it in Oscar's shop when she was at the Market last week. She admired the warm, satiny mahogany wood and the sparkling abalone inlay. It was so pretty! And when she picked it up it felt like a toy in her hands. Oscar tuned it up quickly and played a little song for her.

One hour later Frida was at home with the ukulele cradled in her arms. She was slowly strumming her first few chords. She wants to surprise Pepe and play a song for him: White Sandy Beach. She loves that song! It makes her feel peaceful and happy.

Frida has forgotten all about it, but Pepe is supposed to meet her at her home this afternoon! As he walks up to her front door he hears the soft sound of strummed chords coming from inside the house, played a little awkwardly at first, and then with more confidence after just a few minutes. Instead of knocking, he just sits on the steps, Elvis at his side, and listens with delight.

(Turn page...)

Spring

Pepe has Spring Fever! Usually he's content to spend the day writing, but today he wants to...

Fly a kite!

It doesn't matter that he doesn't have one, he can make one! He's sure that this is where his origami skills will come in handy.

So, with some bamboo sticks and string and sheets of bright-colored paper, Pepe folds and unfolds and folds again... and voila!

And it's a warm, sunny, breezy day - just perfect! Pepe and Elvis head out to the park, Pepe's new kite in hand. And when they arrive, to their delight they see dozens of kites in the sky! All shapes, all colors, all types: box kites, bowed kites, chapi-chapi, kites the shape of octopi and parrots and swallows and turtles and koi and butterflies and sailboats and pinwheels.

Pepe runs, Elvis close behind, and lets his kite catch the breeze. The fiery red paper dragon sails into the blue sky.

Pepe's dragon kite looks down and admires the beautiful green park far below, his golden eyes flashing. He loves sailing in the fresh strong breeze, beneath the golden sun, so high in the sky, so happy, so free! He can just make out the tiny figures of Pepe and Elvis far below, so he decides to show off, just a little bit, and twirls and swirls and loops through the air.

Pepe is delighted, and Elvis barks and jumps with joy.

(Turn page...)

More tomorrow....
Planet of Poets