A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

Category: Doggerel

A Child’s Christmas In Whales (A reminiscence of curious proceedings)

On many occasions as a child
I was swallowed by a whale.
The sensation differs slightly
From being eaten by a snail.

The first one was a minke
Off the coast of Rotterdam.
The sea was blue and slinky,
While I was pink as ham.

As I lay upon the shoreline,
My eyes beheld the sky;
A whale surveyed the sea shine –
And mistook me for some rye[1].

With her jaws she filched me;
Her toothless gums bit down.
Her taste buds shuddered swiftly;
Her brows weaved in a frown.

‘Begone!’ she cried; ‘Away and hence!’
I needn’t be asked twice.
Her taste turned out the same as mine:
We neither found it nice.

The next year it was different;
By which I mean the same.
The time was near and distant –
My Christmas didn’t change.

Backstroking in the straits of France
I chanced upon a narwhal;
Our eyes did meet in briefest glance;
She thought that I was carnal.

Some find me quite indelicate;
Others think I charm.
The narwhal was indifferent;
And swallowed me with calm.

‘What the devil!’ bellowed she;
‘My God, I am aghast!’
Forth I gushed into the sea
From her blowhole blast.

The cause of piquant agony
Belied her mottled brows;
She had a gaping cavity,
And I was spattered out.

Marvellous my escape –
I thought that I would never
Free myself from such a scrape
And roll about in heather. 

When next year’s Christmas came around
I knew what else was coming.
I could see the tail a-pound;
I could hear its belly humming.

I knelt – I prayed – to God above
‘Don’t let him eat me up;
I’m much too young for Whales to love;
Or to quaff and sup’.

Alas, my fate had long been sealed,
The waves broke with commotion.
My chair slipped down, and forward wheeled,
Then tipped into the ocean.

A humpback bellowed – roaring free –
Throughout the frosty bay;
He was blind, yet espied me;
I saw his fins were grey.

And thus I spent the yuletide
Deep within his bowels;
By grace I was not lonely –
My neighbours were two owls.

One a husband, one a wife;
Years they’d been together.
Years of sullen, wretched strife,
Yet free from stormy weather. 

A miracle occurred, I’d say;
I heard the whale a-grumble.
Above the raucous freezing bay
I heard my host a-mumble.

‘No, no – that simply will not do,’
He groaned with marked disdain;
‘Far too gristly and obtuse –
What’s more it is too plain’.

And thus it was that I was piped
Out of his blubbered mouth;
I returned to Stockholm;
The behemoth headed south.

Relieved? Well, strangely, I confess 
I was tinged with regret;
Am I not delicious?
Is my flavour wet?

One Christmas I was lonely –
My life had lost its way.
I wanted to feel comely;
To see a brighter day.

I holidayed in Finland;
Where seers say that you shouldn’t.
Because it always snows at Christmas;
Even when it doesn’t.

It was not fate which took me;
It was a fluke of chance.
A bowhead glided gently;
Its jaws snagged on my pants.

The whale was wrought with fears –
Its flippers wrapped in socks;
Covering its dainty ears
Were two chiming clocks.

A harpsichord it had for teeth;
Its nostrils flared with rigour.
Barnacles piped a beat;
I played the keys with vigour.

‘What the devil? Such a bawl!’
I must accept the claim.
My fingers do not leap – they crawl;
It is my secret shame.

My escape this time was easy;
In fact it was quite plain.
The whale was somewhat queasy
Though too mild to complain.

One winter I grew peaceful;
Along the beach I strolled.
Just as I felt hopeful,
Down my trousers rolled.

A Pilot whale was stranded
Upon the sandy way.
Its eyes were dull and dreary;
They reminded me of May.

Slipping on a starfish,
I skittered through the lips;
The teeth brushed rather sharpish
Upon my naked hips.

‘Why?’ I asked; ‘Am I to blame?
Have I done something awful?
Do I have the scent of shrimp;
Or lobster by the claw-full?

Two hunters sat and gave a stare;
I beheld the beating heart.
There was a feud between the pair;
A gull kept them apart.

One had fired his harpoon
At some passing krill;
The pilot swallowed all anon;
And now was agued with ill.

Yet despite the heavy atmosphere
I was feeling chipper;
My unruly trousers were
Now belted with a kipper

‘Typical’ one hunter groaned;
‘Just look at the weather’.
A snowflake drifted all alone –
Or perhaps it was a feather.

Silently I moved some kelp;
My hand begrasped the spear;
Suddenly the behemoth belched –
The passageway was clear.

There was no time for thanks;
Nor need to fish me out.
The hunters held me by the shanks –
We flew out of the spout.

For one last youthful time,
My Christmas was a-bed;
I travelled to a warmer clime,
Where the sea is Red.

Moonlight glinted silently
Atop the spicy sea;
I dreamed a dream so dreamily;
An Orca swallowed me[2].

Inside I found a woman
Who’d swum the straits of Araby;
She made a new home in the whale;
And furnished it for free.

The ribs had been graced with a cage
Open at all times;
A nightingale sang like a sage –
Joyous in dark climes.

The ocean had enchanted her
Between one rock and another;
As the tides were roaring there
A whale’s mouth offered cover.

The whale’s tongue was now garnished
With ornate carpetry;
The somnolence was varnished
With wordless poetry.

‘Goodbye’ I said to both my friends
When I had departed;
This is where my story ends:
Back where I had started.

Now I dream of kippers,
And wistfully retire;
While chestnuts and my slippers
Roast slowly in a fire.

I tell grandchildren stories –
They dismiss them as tall tales;
My many fabled glories
Of Christmases in whales. 

[1] Q. Do whales eat rye? A. Whales have always eaten rye.

[2] Q. Are Orcas members of the whale family, and not the dolphin genus? A. Orcas have always been members of the whale family, and not the dolphin genus.

I Am A Useless Elephant.

‘I am a useless elephant,’
Clive mused aloud one day;
‘My biscuits have all cindered –
They’ve burned from gold to grey’.

‘Why does the caged bird sing her song? Its eyes are pricked; and clipped its wing’.

Why does the caged bird sing her song?
Its eyes are pricked; and clipped its wing’.
Aye, what is it makes her gizzards throng?
What causes such a one to sing?
Does it call in hope? For the chance to see?
Imaginings, dreams – does it sing for these?
For sorrow or joy? Does it call out for help?
To open its cage…
But if its wings are broken, its eye-sight gone,
How could it survive in this world for long?
Perhaps then impotent rage –
Its voice only sweet by fault of design:
In cipher despairing, but to our ears fine.
As earth sown with salt:
Tender with want, yet bitter in excesses.
It is perhaps this fault
Which her voice expresses.
The sun is blindness to the eye,
And silence to the ear;
Relieved of sight such heat
The creature need no longer fear;
Her voice flutes both mellow and sweet
Because in blindness one sees clear.
The bird is blind unto the world
And thus ‘tis made content:
‘Tis ugliness which quiets the voice;
Makes hymn silent by singer’s choice.
Passion is quelled by misery;
‘Tis a blessing to no longer see.
Sometimes the summer is too long;
And the wind of autumn is a blessing
To those it touches on.
The fields are all grown over;
Thus lest the earth be o’er seeded,
Now the reaper meets his purpose,
And dexterity is needed.
It feels its own security:
Enclosed in gilded bar’;
Where no fox treads, nor hawk’s eye scours;
Cats’ paws don’t reach so far.
One frets not under lock and key –
Is it not therefore the same as we?
But why the voice?
Why such a gift receive?
When hours are tender, moments sore –
And even joy is grief?
Perhaps its heart awaits in patience
The dawn of final light?
In which the dusk is radiant,
And where clipped wings know flight?
These things spent eyes will never view,
But gentle time and patient earth,
Which whisper soft ‘You come too’.

‘I am not faithful fortune’s friend; Terrors and snares my steps attend’.

I am not faithful fortune’s friend;
Terrors and snares my steps attend.
Whichsoever way I wend,
Therein I find my heart doth rend.
The scarecrow me his sleeve will lend;
He guards as fittingly as I –
Upon his arms fowls of the sky;
Upon the ground fresh seed they peck.
I imitate his every step.
All of me’s my shadow cast;
All the livelong day it lasts.
Come night, come dark, come creeping in;
My shadow parts and sleep begins.
My stated purpose; my fated end:
An allotment, with buttercups to tend.

When hoar-frost copies her fair sister’s image;
When to press upon water causes damage.
Where treads the bird with silent sounds;
Where nought is heard ‘cept all around.
Where in the evening brambles throng,
Where the Toad-lilies bloom.
Where the spider sings his song
Underneath the autumn moon.
Where the wilder roses grow,
And lean upon the fallen snow.
There I’ll feel the poppy’s breath:
As bright as life and quiet as death.
There, oh there, is where I’ll go.
I’ll wait in patience – I will abide so.

‘Lully lullay, lully lullay – A falcon hath borne my true love away’.

Lully lullay, lully lullay –
A falcon hath borne my true love away.

He bore him to where he would not be found;
He flew him to an orchard turned brown.
In that place the last fruit had fall’n;
‘Twas there the knight’s name a maiden had call’n.
Within the orchard there agéd a hall,
With a room which was coloured in scarlet and pall.
In that room there standeth a bed,
And it was hangéd with gold so red;
In that bed there lieth the knight,
His wounds lay bleeding by day and by night.
By that bedside there kneeleth the maid,
And she weepeth by turns both night and by day.

Lully lullay, lully lullay –
My true love has born himself away.

It was the maiden who bore him to bed;
It was her hands which brought him the cup.
A garland of thorns she took from his head;
His face to heaven could only look up.
Upon her bed she lay him down;
A kiss she laid upon his mouth
A hand she placed upon his crown.
Tears now marked where thorns once had laid;
The knight’s hands the girl kissed and suffered to fall.
The falcon was tame with none but the maid –
He had returned to her soft voice’s call.
Upon her hand he perched and he stayed;
Crimson and scarlet and amber brocade.

Lully lullay, lully lullay –
The falcon has borne me my true love away.

Of her heart was made a wound;
And through his hair a garland wound.
Under her hand the knight’s head swooned;
And then he fell silent without any sound
Upon his mouth she lay her hand,
And on his head she placed a kiss;
For the day his eyes were closed,
As for the night his lips.

Lully lullay, lully lullay –
My true love has born itself away.

The maid’s orchard continues in scarlet and pall;
To blossom in spring; in Autumn to fall.
As the sun turned golden and finally set,
The moon lit upon the maid and her pet.
Now, in the orchard there lieth a stone,
‘Corpus Christi’ written thereon.

Doggerel: ‘Bumble Bee’

Tumbly bumbler,
Stumbly fumbler,
Tiger-striped black and yellow,
Blurred buzzing flying fellow.

The sunlight dancing on your wings
Slips into the air and sings
A brightly shining lullaby
That stays with me when you’ve flown by.

Doggerel: ‘Winter Stars’

Stars dim,
And split,
And coldly splinter.

Its snows are silence
Faintly falling,
Falling faintly,
Softly cold –
It covers.
Gentle crashes,
Like kisses smothered.

The wild earth’s peace.
All movement,
All moments,

Doggerel: ‘Let Me Sleep’

Little dreaming heart,
Fall asleep and never wake.

Soft she sings,
Softly scented summer words;
But gently heard:

I’ll sing a song for you”.
Pretty your mouth,
Tears of blue in your eyes –
Cold as the waters hiding the sunrise.

You’re tired and it’s late,
But try to stay awake;
Shield your eyes from the sun
Losing its light.
Rock the cradle, light the candle,
Close your eyes but hold your breath;
Catch the sound of the summer breeze.
The long rays of the evening sun
On everything and everyone.
But heaven speaks.

Dream yourself a wish;
Dream a warm and coloured kiss –
A secret summer smile for you;
But your bruised fingers and cut palms
Can’t catch the breeze
That takes your sighs
And cools your cheeks.

Rock the cradle,
Burn the candle.
I’ll sing a song for you”.
Pretty your mouth,
Tears of blue in your eyes.
Cold now the heat
Of each morning’s sunrise.
Little dreaming heart,
Don’t fall asleep, but close your eyes.

Dream a wish to be.
Stars asleep and sleeping
Softly, soundless, in the lake.
They wait for you, they call –
‘All’s nothing; nothing’s all’.
The midnight waters rise and fall.
Soon –
Fleeting dreams beneath an autumn moon.

Dawn breaks the morning,
The morning breaks;
Its red sky aches,
The baby wakes.
I’ll sing a song for you”.
Pretty your mouth,
Tears of blue in your eyes.
Your tired heart fading
At the touch of each sunrise.

Heaven wants, heaven aches;
But the sun won’t leave
Until it burns itself cold and still.
So close your eyes.

Dark clouds chase each other across the sky.
Shadows flicker and sway,
Blown by the wind –
Night music,
With no beginning or end.

Alone in your room,
But for a child that’s too loved
And the cold mid-winter sun.
It’s light falling down
On everything and everyone.

The sound of the wind
And a silent snowfall
Open into a small mouth crying.
It takes your warmth –
The stillness within –
Of summer smiles and angels’ wings.

The stars in the water –
Frozen, washed away;
Caught up and broken
By the waves.

A voice and a strain;
The candlelight cold.
The shadows breathing –
And the murmur of heartbeats
Wishing and dreaming.

The child unsleeping –
Its small breaths nets,
Trapping the moonlight
And the silences.

The winter wind
Blows light through the trees;
It quickens the child,
And stirs your dreams.
So close your eyes,
Let winter breathe.
Hush now, dream now,
Wish now and sleep.
The small mouth – no more to cry;
The sounds silenced
With a silk-blanket lullaby.

I’ll sing a song for you.
Pretty your mouth,
Tears of blue in your eyes.
Fall asleep, never wake;
Join the silences.

Doggerel: ‘Waking’

Just one heart.
The sun’s warmth falls brightly,
Breaking light on your simple sleep.
Leaving its warmth in your fist clenched tightly;
Leaving it’s red on your cheek.

Von Trotha’s Monologue

An extract from Strange Free World.

(Von Trotha) What is life as lived by men?
It is the nation lives on; the nation alone is eternal.
There is little to gain from peace.
A willing sacrifice of many lives upon the altar of civilisation – that has meaning.
It is death which is glorious, not life.
It is the dead whose life is everlasting – the life evermore.
They are nothing; their nation is everything.
Gentlemen, the law of nature is the law of reason.

[The other participants murmur their assent]

(Von Trotha) The tribes will come to know this.
The desert fox, the spider, even the asp
Will find succour in the cold and the damp;
But not them.
A storm will sweep the world,
Without pity or sorrow. 
There will be no more yesterdays;
There shall be no tomorrow.
Not for them –
Never will the revolting tribe prevail;
They shall beget sons and daughters, but shall not enjoy them.
The trees and fruit of their land shall the locust consume[1].
The day cometh that shall burn them up;
They shall be dust under the soles.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall save them.
Great shall be the day when driven cattle
Are slain by the words of a mouth.
They shall walk quietly, everyone his path; breathing gently.
The earth shall not quake, nor the heavens tremble.
The calf which totters shall suckle and skip to the last;
Flowers will bloom, and blooms flower.
And it shall come to pass:
Men slow to anger, and of great heart,
Yet shall make the morning darkness.
The man who sacrifices shall kiss the calf[2];
The days shall come when the reaper overtakes the ploughman;
And the least grain shall not stir the earth.
Men without fear, without anguish, with nerves to endure,
Will stand on the burnt plain, will look out over the ruins,
And their eye will not spare.
The day shall cast shadow;
The flesh shall fill the valleys,
Shall water the earth with blood.
The mountain will burn with fire, and become darkness.
And it shall come to pass;
Women will be made childless –
Not by the sword, but by the gentle hand.
The womb shall smoulder, and the breast run dry.
Mothers will rend the caul.
Fathers shall seek death, and find it not;
Shall desire to cease, but decease shall remain elusive[3].
Moments of joy will be their eternal sorrow;
Life shall be death unto them.
The stones will weep from the wall;
The limbs of the trees will testify[4].
They will cry to God, but find the sky empty;
They will run, all together –
Small and great, young and old –
The gate shall be opened, and they shall be brought to nothing.
The light in there is darkness everlasting –
It draws in and never gives out.
No more than the bones of locusts and the husks of wheat –
Swept along by the gentlest wind.
Of remains shall be no trace.
Memory will gutter; will extinguish.
Men’s frames shall burn as incense;
But the earth will keep her quietness.
They will not rise from the flames;
They will not return from the ashes.
The only sound shall be silence;
The only sight – naught, and evermore.
Still flows the river, and shall forever flow.
And it shall come to pass,
That everything that liveth, which moveth,
Whithersoever the rivers shall course, shall cease[5].
They are nothing; they will be nothing
But the shadow of the wind and the cry of the sun;
And this for all time.
But shall the sword devour forever?[6]
Shall its strokes never cease?
The fires will wane;
They will come to an end.
The burning will at last to embers come;
Yet shall scorch the earth once more.
A new birth will see the dawn –
There will be no horizon;
The river will course with a halo of ashes.
As the sun rises and gleams on the waves’ froth;
As each breaks and retreats once more,
Time and again, again and in time,
The waters will wash clean, run clear and run cold:
Rivers of blood, rivers of gold.

[1] See Deuteronomy 28. 41-2.

[2] See Hosea 13.3-6.

[3] See Revelations 9.6

[4] See Talmud – p. 272.

[5] See Ezekiel 47.4.

[6] See 2 Samuel 2.26.