My review of W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece OF HUMAN BONDAGE reminded me of “Petey Peter the Garlic Eater,” a poem I wrote and which was included in POEM MAN, a children’s poetry book my family and I published back at the turn of the century.
Maugham’s classic novel and my less-than-classic poem both discuss, in their one ways, the important matter of addiction and dependency. In Maugham’s story, we find that, because of the protagonist Philip Carey’s love for Mildred, a love so strong she becomes his addiction (his bondage), he nearly destroys his own life. In my poem, we find that both Peter Peter’s excessive love for pumpkins and Petey Peter’s excessive love for garlic, addictions in their own rights, destroy, if not their own lives, then the lives of those around them.
Petey Peter the Garlic Eater
Petey Peter the garlic eater
Sat right behind me in class.
And if he wasn’t busy boisterously burpin’,
He was busy passin’ poisonous gas.
I couldn’t concentrate on my studies
Because of the stink he emitted.
As a result I failed all my classes.
As for graduation, I wasn’t permitted.
Now, if you’re a lover of riddles and rhymes
You might just remember his name.
Cuz his great, great, great, great, great, grandfather
Is famous for a name just the same.
But their names are their only sim’larities,
For they both liked to eat different treats.
Old Peter Peter preferred to eat pumpkins,
While it was garlic young Petey did eat.
Though I can’t imagine eating pumpkins
Unless smashed and baked as sweet pies.
But I do wish young Petey had eaten them,
Cuz his garlic breath always drew flies.
But pumpkins, too, can bring trouble.
It’s cuz of pumpkins old Peter lost a wife.
I guess if you do too much of anything
There’s a chance it could ruin a life.
It’s cuz of Petey’s stinky garlic breath
That every single class I did fail.
And it’s cuz I dropped out of grade school
That I eventually landed in jail.
But as for Petey, he invented a breath mint.
And it earned him a million or two.
And he married the great, great, great, great, great, granddaughter
Of the old lady who lived in the shoe.