They come to the hospital with burns or bronchitis or broken bones -- or any of a zillion other kinds of hurts. Some stay for weeks or even months. Some go home the same day. Some are "regulars" who return several times a year for checkups or rehab or outpatient treatment of chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or cancer. And for some of the kids at Children's National Medical Center, a stay in the hospital turns out to be their first encounter with poetry. The poems on these pages were written over the past two years by children in the hospital. The young poets worked with Laurie Stroblas, poet-in-residence in the medical center's New Horizons Program, which coordinates activities in writing, dance, music and the visual arts for hospitalized children. Two or three days a week, Stroblas roams the medical floors at Children's, keeping half-hour appointments with youngsters she has already met -- and keepingan eye out for others who might wish to participate. Word gets around. Nurses sometimes tip her off. Or, if a child she's working with has a roommate, Stroblas may suggest, "Let's turn off the TV for a while and try something creative." But it's always up to the patient. She works with the kids, one on one, listening, encouraging, scribbling, reading. "It's not a classroom approach," said Stroblas, a freelance writer who also teaches creative writing at the Filmore Arts Center in the District Public Schools. "We sit down and sort of muddle through together." Often the child's first question is: What's a poem? "Sometimes I say we're going to try to use words in a special way -- or maybe try to tell a story without pictures," Stroblas said. "We make a kind of magic with words." William Carlos Williams would have understood. Williams, one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, earned his living as an old-fashioned general practitioner and pediatrician in Rutherford, N.J. "The physician enjoys a wonderful opportunity actually to witness the words being born," Williams wrote in his 1951 autobiography, The doctor-poet said he "felt at times like a thief because I heard words, lines, saw people and places -- and used it all in my writing." Williams once compared newspapers with the special kind of "daily news" he encountered on rounds in hospital wards and patients' homes (he made house calls). The news in the papers was mostly "trivial fill-gap," he said. "But the hunted news I get from some obscure patients' eyes is not trivial. It is profound." Then, as now, it began with the children. THE ADVENTURE OF THE HICCUPS They're awfully big down there. They hurt when they start. I have very deep hiccups. Their color is clear as a piece of glass. Their shape is flat as when an elephant sits on you. Let's send them to the man in the moon. Let's go to the window and watch the moon jump. by Carrie Frock, age 10 Dale City THE FLOWERPOT I got a flowerpot in my head like a picture so I can draw it. How am I going to take it out of my head? With imagination! No operation needed! by Adriana Gaitan, age 10 Silver Spring I'D LIKE TO EAT THE WORDS Poems make me hungry. I want to eat the words. On the word yellow I'd put celery. On the word red I'd put salt. On the word white I'd put ketchup and mustard. I'd eat the word salad and wash it down with grape juice. by Jermaine Fisher, age 8 Washington, D.C. MAGIC MARBLES I hold marbles in my hand. One could be a golf ball lying in the grass. One could be the earth turning around. In one, I can see myself, just the way I am, a beautiful girl in the hospital who wishes she could be dancing. It feels cold against my skin. In another marble I see a leaf falling from a tree through water. by Marquita Bennett, age 8 Washington, D.C. IF YOU FORGET HOW TO DREAM If you forget how to dream, cut out of construction paper the letter Z and take it to sleep with you. If your Z decides to turn on its side and become a nightmare, then cut out a D from dream. If your D flips over to a B and your bed disappears, use the B for a Band-Aid. If your Band-Aid falls off your leg, cut out a G for a genie and wish back your dreams. by Tammy Wilner, age 10 Bethesda UNTITLED Who cares about a diamond? I like marbles. by Christopher Prentice, age 6 Capitol Heights THE BODY OF THE GUITAR Some guitars are round like the end of a chicken drumstick but we can't eat them! Some guitars remind me of a person with a long neck, and a body with a bellybutton that is the hole where the sound comes from. The strings are like five worms making music when you touch them. The pegs on top look like fingers, or toes that belong on the bottom. You have to listen to your toes when you play the guitar. by Ryan White, age 9 Beltsville STEPHEN'S FIRST POEM Things that are cold: My room at home and part of the house. Ice in the freezer. Ghostbusters must be cold. Air conditioning. Snow lying on the ground. Santa Claus, because he comes from outside. A bird's wing. My feet without socks. The color red from a rainbow. Tires on a car. Rain falling on your face. The stars in the sky. Someone's earring. The doctor's stethoscope when it touches your heart. Bouncing balls and bad dreams. by Stephen Johnson, age 7 Springfield THE FROG When you get the hiccups a little frog inside bounces up to your chin and down to your chest again and again until you drink some water and he gets knocked out. by Otis Drayton, age 8 Washington, D.C. MY BABY BROTHER As I walk, the snow falls down, covering my head, the cars, the roof of my house. The snow makes me fall down because it is slippery as fish. Rain falls down, and so do babies 'cause they don't know how to walk yet. Pine needles from Christmas trees, water pouring from a faucet, branches and leaves from trees, rocks tumbling from hills, hot lava cascading from volcanoes. The sun and the moon go down too. Sometimes my spirit falls down when I stay in the hospital. My spirit lifts up when I see my baby brother. by Rosa Ferrufino, age 12 Silver Spring THE MAGIC MIRROR I am looking at a balloon. It is like my mirror. I am admiring myself. This is the first time I've seen myself since the incident. I see a prince, the prince of Babylon, counting his gold. I see the President of the United States, going over important papers. I see Hulk Hogan, the ultimate warrior, building a house. I see Michael in a hospital gown, dozing off. His right hand is in a bandage. His fourth finger on his left hand is also bandaged. I look like myself, a handsome little guy. by Michael Ashton, age 10 Washington, D.C. MY MAGIC MARBLE Inside my magic marble there are diamonds cracked like thunder. Inside the thunder are the sounds of buildings falling. Inside the buildings are empty desks, their skinny legs breaking. Inside the empty desks are growling sounds. The wind is blowing through red leaves and white feathers. That is the last thing I hear as I fall asleep with my magic marble in my pocket. by Kenneth Smith, age 9 Washington, D.C. VALLEY OF HEARTS Hearts are a sign of love. You get them fiery red on Valentine's Day. They look like two roads over hills that descend and meet together in a valley of hearts, where hearts are never broken. On the two roads they can be broken by sad feelings. The doctor comes from the valley, in a dream, and mends with stitches of happy feelings. I have walked those roads and never had my heart broken, for I have been raised and helped people in the valley of hearts. by Katie Dorr, age 12 Silver Spring AN X-RAY An X-ray of a baby is orange and green and shows the baby has difficulty breathing. It sounds like music, bones close to each other. The baby swallowed a fish and a bird. The fish slid down smoothly. The bird flew down and landed in the dark stomach. They fought with each other and that gave the baby trouble. They kept fighting anyway. The baby's breathing is still like music only I can hear. The baby stayed in the hospital 70,000 years and 82 months. The baby got older. The fish and the bird stayed young. by Amber Orlett, age 8 Silver Spring POEM OF EVERYTHING I notice a little kitten at the foot of the bed, sleeping. I notice the nurses visit with temperature boxes. I notice the tape on the telephone, looking like a bandaged patient. I see a green monkey hanging on to my toy's head. I notice the scar on my side is red. by Tabitha Kneisly, age 7 Martinsburg, W.Va. WHEN I CAN'T REACH When I can't reach my leg, to itch, I call the nurse. Not being able to scratch is like putting a Christmas tree in front of me and not letting me have any presents. I miss my mother's fingernails! by Tarshieka Campbell, age 9 Washington, D.C. SUMMER I like to swim. I swing my hands like circles through the warm water. It is as blue as my balloon. I don't wish I were a fish. I wish I had five dollars! by Jeffrey Williams, age 6 Landover THE SPINNING MARBLES When I spin marbles one looks like it's going dizzy. One looks sparkly as a unicorn. One looks like it's dancing, picking up the light. It is wearing a pink tutu. One looks like a hurricane headed for town. One looks like a volcano getting ready to explode. One looks like a spinning yellow feather from a baby parakeet. And one looks like the moon turning faster and faster until it stops, until it drops. by Abbey Steel, age 6 McLean THE BALL I RAN INTO THE STREET AFTER He was supposed to stop but he didn't, he kept on going, it wasn't my fault. That's all I can remember. The ball I ran into the street after looks like an apple dipped in glitter. . . a rose in a meadow growing with water and sun. . . a light bulb for a party, that I would turn on. . . a glittering star next to the moon, flying on the back of a bird. I still like my ball but I wish it were gone so I wouldn't have gotten hit. by Danielle Clark, age 9 Hyattsville THE LIGHTNING The lightning is trying to strike a building because it thinks the building is angry at the lightning. The branches of lightning are strong. They are growing down. They are lost on the ground and turn into seeds that will become flowers. One day a little girl will be riding her bike on the road. She will stop and smell the flowers. It won't be raining, but it will be lightning. She will pick the flowers, take them to her home, and bring them to her mom. by Chad Furman, age 8 Leonardtown, Md. SEASHELLS First time I started collecting seashells, my grandfather was collecting worms in his back yard to go fishing. Then I saw the seashells. Everywhere he dug and didn't find a worm, there was a seashell. So I watched them and picked them up and washed them in my grandmother's house. When they were clean, I lined them up on the windowsill so they could watch the rain. by Kenneth Smith, age 9 Washington, D.C. MY UNCLE'S GARDEN In my uncle's garden there are large blueberries, as blue as I am when I'm cold. They get eaten first. The small ones hide behind dark green leaves. They are afraid of my uncle's rough hands. The potatoes have eyes that are looking suspiciously at the carrots, because they grow down, while other vegetables grow up. Their hairs reach out like arms in the dirt for water and minerals. If I could reach out into my uncle's garden, I'd pick the sweet corn and feel it melting in my mouth. by Erin Waldron, age 10 Alexandria