alternatively, Fatima's Tomb


Lord Read of Woomera
the Sodden Octuplets

  1. Fever was her first concern
  2. Aria in a flat, my love, or are you in a house?
  3. Mother, O Mother, I'm missing your meow!
  4. I leapt from the stair with a lightning step
  5. Despite my birth, waist-deep in water
  6. Good King Nosnibor looked in

Listen to reading

Fever was her first concern
Fighting was her pride and joy
February made her turn
Forlorn into a little boy
Forever ruing what she'd done
Forgetting how to write her name
Forgiven by the Dean
Frenetic'ly she cooked a bun
Fine foodstuff for the lame
For poster chair belonging to the Queen.

Never was her next concern
Nonetheless she curdled ice
Now November made her turn
Neglectful, so she snuffled twice
Not unsuspecting, fever struck
Nor yet competing with a duck
No physician, fraught with pills
Neatly curing sundry ills,
Next to Muddy Monday's kills

Lever was her last concern
Let her blow that clarinet
Lemmings always made her turn
Lorissa was her pet
Laughing loudly, soon she fell
Lower than the depths of Hell
Longer than the vale of woe
Louder than the Oboboe
Languid as the Limpopo.

Guess her name and you shall see
Why she's lovelier than a frog.

Aria in a flat, my love, or are you in a house?
Are you in a state to understand
Why can a turbid turtle-dove become a merry mouse
With sable winds to lash his ampersand?
(Will Deirdre turn once more into a louse?
Alone beside the ruined hot-dog stand
Whose owner often castigates his spouse
His only spouse
Who lent a hand
In far-off Samarkand?)

O, Meg, a dainty lass you are --
Pray come and see my Jaguar
(I bought it in Antigua
Where Romeo was slain).
O, Mike, Ron said to break to you
What Juliet had spake to you
"I know of no such lake -- do you?"
Had Alf a sadder strain?
Or water on the brain?

In Katmandu did Xubla Xhan
Eat kestrels by the score,
And from the lofty minaret
He played upon a violette
And to the fading sunny set
From Turkey and from far Iran
A slowly shutting door
He sang, alack, no more.

Mother, O Mother, I'm missing your meow!
Come back, O come back, O come back to me neow!
Never again shall I spit on the floor
Never again shall I kick down the door
Never again shall I spit on the wall.

Father, my Father, I hear your voice still.
Spare me, O spare me, the catapult kill!
Never again shall I lie on the stair
Never again shall I pull out your hair
Never again shall I play in the hall.

Kitty cat, Kitty cat, sit on my knee!
And I'll tell you a tale of a house in Capri
Here is your fur that I roughly pulled out
Here is your eyeball I bought from a tout
Here is your tooth which you lost in the Fall.

Daughter, O drat her, she's gone into town
Wearing that hideous Alice-blue gown!
Here are her teeth that I won at the fair
Hera, Leander, Ambrosia, Solaire:
Here are the tickets for Emma's May Ball.

Family fortune and family strife
Will never win a man a wife.

I leapt from the stair with a lightning step
Ignoring both pyrex and Peregrine's prep
I struck from the scroll all the writings of Bab
And took my revenge on the Geography Lab.
I left in a hurry, with rice in my hair
Ignoring Corambis's vigilant stare.
I write with my left, you cannot call me wrong
(Although your appearance is not like a gong)
I wrong all the rights that Sir Lancelot wrought
And throng all the fights that Sir Pertelot fought --
For what can the spirit of mortal be bought?

Intending to follow her, off came my gloves
(The miserable mittens that nobody loves
The horrible handgear, the poisonous pair
With blue lemonade at the roots of their hair)
Intending to follow her, took the wrong route
(A pathway so parlous that all men eschew't)
Stumbled at nightfall in Acheron's pit
A cavern so gloomy and so poorly lit
That two smallish ogres would blot out the glow
Of the fabulous furnace, flames all aflow:
Here's Shadrach, here's Meshach, here's Abednigo.

The steeple stands at half past three
I fear there's pig-all left for tea
But still don't step upon the lawn
Unless your petticoat's still torn
Asunder by the sun's bright rays
A serenade to former days.

Despite my birth, waist-deep in water
Oft I struggled, oft in peril,
With my spurkish sister Merryl
And her cousin -- Beastly Beryl,
Deadly Ninety's daughter.

Before my death, with what dire wastrel
I would gamble, he would win
I would stumble, she would sin
He would crumble, we would grin
Making speed not haste, rel-
ying on my kith and kin
Who came from farthest Tooting with a half-unshaven skin.

Despite my dearth, my waste of wisdom
Oft I trembled, oft in winter
Read the works of Harold Pinter
Always looking for a bin ter
House my meal of mouldy mixed-up grain
To save it from the omnipresent rain,
The rancid rain that rots the crops
(And kills the girls when the Welder's cousin's kizdem.)

Destitute, waste-deep in waist
I would wiggle, he would squirm
Jerkily we sought the germ
Bankrupting the oldest firm
Makers of Fish-paste
Who kill the Whelk, the aardvark too, to reinforce their taste
Deadly Ninety was the name -- with deadly something laced.

Good King Nosnibor looked in
To pay the window tax
His head fell off into a bin
And shocked the happy Mandarin
Whose father had grown lax.
But hold -- the Welder's picture grins
Down from the galleree
The suppliant nobles lick his shins
And stab his images with pins
And sticks of celeree.
"But hell" -- the wombat's uncle swore
(Whom samovars ensconsed)
"I cannot tell you any more
Of Mandarin and Mandragore --
Whom Xubla Xhan wounce tronced."

Gentlemen, Ladies -- Welcome to Hades!

©1973, 1999 The Rat Fathom Poets
Edited by Peter Christian
May 31 2023.