Illustration by Tze-Chiang Lim
In meadows, swamps, and flatwood spans,
In pastures, brush, and cyprus stands,
The Florida Tomtens live in peace,
Behind each pine and palm frond leaf.
Like little old men, they have long beards,
Worn red hats and pointy ears,
They stand just inches off the ground,
But move through woods without a sound.
By day, they hide in fallen logs,
In morning mists and wetland fogs,
They watch us with a wary eye,
They rarely speak, for they are shy.
But in the woods lies secret worlds,
Where Tomtens speak with birds and squirrels,
Upon swift snakes they dart and rush,
At lightening speed through thick and brush.
They whisk above upon fierce hawks,
Or with large gators, take long walks,
At night when things are still and cold,
They sleep in armadillo holes.
Though sometimes far and sometimes near,
We never need to live in fear,
Should you see a shadow, late at night,
Fear not, they aren't the harmful type.
They may just want to make a trade,
To take a doll, or garden spade,
If in its place, you see a pine cone,
You know a Tomten was in your home.
The Tomtens may take other things,
A thought, a key, a word, a dream,
Of mysteries, they may snatch clues,
They may take even people, too.
Those parents who are mean and mad,
Who make their children glum and sad,
May find their children whisked away,
To live with Tomtens, night and day.
But for those children, the Tomtens swap,
A special gift that they have caught,
When bad parents check their children's beds,
They may find rattle snakes instead.
Look close at dawn toward the swamps,
For children's faces, wild and gaunt,
Pity them not, as they skip between trees,
A better life, they've found with new families.
But good parents never need to fear,
And all good children may take cheer,
The Tomtens help those gentle souls,
Who find themselves in places foul.
If ever lost in forests dense,
If ever wracked amid suspense,
You may get help along the way.
To help you keep your fears at bay.
A cheerful chirp, a footpath worn,
A helpful shelter amid a storm,
Are all the things a Tomten makes,
To help their friends out of mistakes.
But even if they're on your roof,
You'll see them not, for they're recluse,
But there are signs that they exist,
Just turn your ears toward the mist.
Listen closely, at sunrise,
And you'll be in for a surprise,
Far away, you'll hear violins,
A second before the first birds sing.
Open your window, breathe the air,
Sing back a song, and don't despair,
If kind and good, you've passed the test,
And earned some friends amid the forest.