On a cold grey day in the month of May
the middle of town, not up, not down,
Pottamouse escaped from a train,
before it started to rain.
circus alerted the local gendarmes
ran into the streets and sounded alarms
the rain washed away every trace of a trail
Pottamouse hunt was destined to fail.
people, they said, should stay in bed,
hide in a box with very strong locks
the experts plotted the plan
begin a nationwide scan.
progress was halted before they began.
all their knowledge, not one, to a man
honestly claim they had seen such a beast,
even a picture, or heard one at least!
scratched and they fumed and they rolled-up their eyes,
pulled at their beards, they pulled at their ties,
called out the experts, consulted rare books,
pondered their findings with serious looks,
stood on their chairs and commanded attention,
crisis demanded some sort of invention,
once it was started would seek out the place
the Pottamouse hid, if even a trace
the creature in all of the land could be found.
device which was some sort of ‘Pottamouse hound’.
printed a poster asking for those
had built such machines or thought they would know
such a contraption could perhaps be constructed
at least how this project should best be conducted.
many people, what tools one should use
widget? What gidget? The length of the screws?
size are the questions you feed in the top?
long do you wait for the thinking to stop?
posted the posters across all the land
hoped that their message would soon reach their man.
off in the distance a huffing and puffing
Alistair Harold McLester Von Something.
eminent maker of things most peculiar
of Vienna the son of a jeweler,
once in his youth had designed a device
everyone said had done something quite nice
which he'd been given all kinds of awards
he kept on the wall of his office,
ran in a clatter of people and things
coattails shot out at the back like great wings
face was as big and as round and as red
the face of the sun when it slips into bed
all of the people who lived in the town
out of their houses and danced all around,
cries of great joy soon turned to dismay,
the great Alistair was in much disarray.
rummaged through bags,
clothes here and there,
socks and huge underwear.
were amazed by his wonderful garments ,
he searched every trunk, every secret compartment.
stopped for an instant, his chin held in thought,
dove back right in to the chest he had brought
from a visit to a land in the East
he'd built a Caboozle for an eminent High Priest.
all of his searching and all of his fussing
rise to nought, in his hand he held nothing.
the people looked on thinking maybe they oughtn't,
what could be missing that he found so important?
he turned to the crowd, and they each backed away
heard Alistair state with sombre dismay,
have mislaid by glasses and without them can't find
even my own shadow. I'm rendered quite blind.
made from rare crystal from Solomon's mines
have some kind of magic which helps me draw lines
fantastic inventions born in my brain
without them, I tell you, my ideas are quite lame.
crowd had gone silent, their hopes all subdued,
a girl about eight said, "I don't mean to be rude,
I think you're quite silly, Mr Alistair Von Something,
while you were fussing and fretting and frumping,
getting all hot and turning quite red,
glasses were all along perched on your head"
true! Quite true! Now
we're getting somewhere!
snatched his bifocals from under his hair
perching them high on the bridge of his nose
about digging through all of the clothes
kept in the marvelous bag at his feet
was something for everyone
down the street.
were cottons from Persia and silks from Beijing
were tweeds from South London fit for a king!
were satin penumbras and linen cravats
fantastic, fabulous, outrageous hats!
was crying "No questions! Don't
ask! Put them on!"
to each, don't be greedy! Go on!
Do go on!"
were hats made with feathers from Nightengale Swans
were hats made from fruit and from chocolate bon bons,
were hats made from things that you can't say out loud,
he threw every one of them out to the crowd.
all of the people in their marvelous regalia
a new faith in this man from Westphalia.
a gent who had traveled so far,
with Kings, danced with Queens, met a venerable Czar,
with the gurus in far flung Tibet,
princes in Prussia how to fish with a net,
not fail in his task to build a device
could hunt down the Pottamouse in less than a trice.
will need a large table and big sheets of paper.
long pointy pencil, and a rubber eraser,
need Indian ink, the best you can buy,
a pen that won't squirt any back in my eye.
want a room in an attic so I can see far
a big brass telescope to find the North Star.
every inventor must know where he's going
prevent his attention from to-ing and fro-ing.
did all he asked with greatest of speed
did all they could, satisfied every need.
soon all was ready for him to begin,
he opened the door and strode right on in.
vast table before him and diverse utensils:
ink that he'd asked for and long pointy pencils.
rested his coat on the back of a chair,
out of the window and ruffled his hair.
brain started whirring as he paced back and forth.
he felt that familiar seed of a thought.
sent to the East for a barrel of springs,
sent to the West for some bob-a-ma-things,
sent to the North for two dozen fly-wheels ,
sent to the South for electrical
he stuck them together in shapes most profound
some stick-em-up-stuff he had lying around.
he gave it a kick to start the unwinder,
lo and behold! A Pottamouse finder!
leaped at the door just in time to unlock it,
Pottamouse finder was out like a rocket.
sped up the street with the best of intentions,
was one of his very most awesome inventions!
people, they scattered as it ran through the town,
them up and sniffing them down.
looked under benches and round the town clock.
searched all the boats tied up at the dock.
spun round three times wond’ring where to go next,
spun round five more, looking quite perplexed,
Alistair at last came huffing and blowing, saying,
course my machine doesn’t know where it’s going!”
must give it these questions which I have in my vest,
are quite fundamental for completing the quest.”
held up the papers and read them out loud,
to now by a gathering crowd.
it ten feet tall, or four-feet three?
it live in a hole, or on top of a tree?
it covered in fur, or is it’s skin colored red?
anyone find one hiding under their bed?
it swim in the ocean like a great blue whale?
it have a tuft at the end of its tail?
it come out at night and creep all around?
curl up to doze in a cave under ground?”
rolled up the questions and stuffed them right in,
the search would right ‘way begin.
you ever seen something that’s started to boil,
it’s lid screwed down tight ‘til the rivets uncoil.
bulges and chatters and whistles and steams,
just before blowing it sits there and screams?
that’s just how the thing-a-ma-whatzit looked then,
it scanned all the data, then scanned it again.
just as the crowd was beginning to cringe,
blew off two widgets and half of a hinge.
like a tornado, or whirly-ma-gig.
dresses a-swirling, dancing a jig.
in a cloud of dust and of leaves,
rose from the ground, up over the trees.
the steeple, leaving church bells a-clanging.
the houses, their shutters a-banging.
to the sky in a great arc it rose,
it looked no bigger than Tom Thumb’s nose.
people, they stood there in utter amazement.
could say that their look was one of agazement.
dust settled round them, as they looked to the sky.
Alistair shouted, “My gosh. It can fly!”
crowd was astounded, astonished and quiet,
were perfectly flummoxed, and none could deny it.
Alistair cried, “It’s coming back down!
the top of that hill on the far edge of town!”
townspeople clustered much closer together,
how, what, why, when, where, whether.
dared to be first to rush to the hill,
they watched as the Pottamouse finder stopped still
to some creature as big as a house,
was shaped like a teapot and also a mouse.
ears and a tail, three feet and a spout,
hairy chin whiskers, a quivering snout,
eyes big as cartwheels, stuck on a head
the shape of a loaf of French bread.
Pottamouse, terrified, trembled a mite,
that the finder was going to bite.
this creature, though seeming a fierce apparition,
a perfectly mild disposition.
for its looks at a very young age,
was sold to a circus and locked in a cage.
to be vicious and strong as an ox,
kept it locked up in it’s cage in a box.
added a hole so you could see through
a dollar a look, or one-fifty for two.
fed it with mice and rats and live snakes,
eventually discovered it ate only
Forest and Angel and sometimes Dundee,
anything with chocolate it scoffed up with glee.
now this poor creature, alone and quite scared,
the Pottamouse finder, was securely ensnared.
the hill, the people came running,
by the venerable Mr. Von Something.
close to the scene, he slowed down and then stopped.
eyes grew quite wide and his bottom jaw dropped.
could hardly believe what he saw with his eyes.
was bigger and older, but he still recognized
first great creation he’d made in his youth
an old china teapot and a very sweet tooth;
things from the shed at the back of the house;
bread for a head and some essence of mouse.
stories they end with a bang and a shout.
stories linger then fade slowly out,
stories just seem to go on forever,
this story that we have been telling together,
in a spot on the top of hill,
everyone gathered round tightly to thrill
the sight of the fabulous Pottamouse thing,
happy to see them, had started to sing
song that was sung when the world was still new,
things half-remembered, as old the day grew.
when at the very far end of the song,
shadows behind them had stretched out so long
they reached as far as the village below,
bade their farewells and made quickly to go,
professor McLester Von Something looked down
the day fading over the roofs of the town,
the houses with windows that sparkled with light,
searched for some words to set everything right.
at last with a sigh, a smile, now at ease,
lifted his forefinger into the
patting the Pottamouse on it’s forehead
into it’s eyes and affectionately
what a magnificent thing I’ve created!”
Pottamouse purred and grew slightly inflated).
patting him under the base of his spout,
turned, and with no one to see them about,
night gathered closely to bid them farewell,
down in the village they rang the church bell,
Von Something, the finder and “Pot”,
name he affectionately called his what-not)
lost to the present and part of the past,
so is our story – so long,
At long last.
T. M. Clarke & B.F.Clark copyright 1996
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