Down the back of the chair

Many people have heard Margaret Mahy recite her wonderful poem Down the back of the chair and have wanted to read it. Christchurch City Libraries is therefore delighted to make Down the back of the chair widely available, as part of our Margaret Mahy pages.

Cover of the Down the Back of the Chair picture bookA picture book version of this poem, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, was published by Frances Lincoln in April 2006. Borrow Down the back of the chair from our libraries. The poem is also available in How you doing? a selection of New Zealand comic and satiric verse edited by Harry Ricketts and Hugh Roberts.

Down the back of the chair

Our car is slow to start and go. We can’t afford a new one.
Now if you please, Dad’s lost the keys. We’re facing rack and ruin.
No car, no work! No work no pay!
We’re getting poorer day by day.
No wonder Dad is turning grey.
The morning is a blue one.

Nothing but dockets in his pockets.
Raging with despair
Dad acts appalled! Though nearly bald
He tries to tear his hair.
But Mary who is barely two
Said Dad should do what I would do
I lose a lot, but I find a few
Down the back of the chair.

He’s patted himself, and searched the shelf. He’s hunted here and there,
So now he’ll kneel and try to feel right down the back of the chair.
Oh it seemed to grin as his hand went in.
He felt a tingling in his skin.
What will a troubled father win
From down the back of the chair?

Some hairy string and a diamond ring
Were down the back of the chair,
Pineapple peel and a conger eel
Were down the back of the chair
A sip, a sup, a sop, a song. A spider seven inches long,
No wonder that it smells so strong
Down the back of the chair.

A packet of pins and one of the twins
Down the back of the chair.
A pan, a fan that belonged to Gran
Down the back of the chair …
A crumb, a comb, a clown, a cap
A pirate with a treasure map,
A dragon trying to take a nap
Down the back of the chair.

A cake, a drake, a smiling snake,
Down the back of the chair
A string of pearls, a lion with curls
Down the back of the chair
A skink, a skunk, a skate, a ski,
A couple of elephants drinking tea
The bandersnatch and the bumblebee
Down the back of the chair.

But what is this? Oh bliss! Oh bliss!
(Down the back of the chair).
The long lost will of Uncle Bill
(Down the back of the chair).
His money box all crammed with cash
Tangled up in a scarlet sash
There’s pleasure, treasure, toys and trash
Down the back of the chair.

I've found my dreams, our father beams.
(Down the back of the chair).
At last I see how life can be.
(Down the back of the chair).
Forget the keys! We're poor no more
Just call a taxi to the door.

A taxi shot out with a roar
From down the back of the chair.

ChairThe chair, the chair, the challenging chair,
The champion chair, the cheerful chair,
The charming chair, the children’s chair,
The chopped and chipped but chosen chair
To think our fortune waited there
Down the back of the chair.