"Mark's Bass"
or "Within an Inch of my Life"


The Real Eightsome
Pancho Stanza

  1. Labour saving African assistant to the Duke
  2. Acrimonious, ineffably large,
  3. "The dangers inherent in eating a spoon
  4. The wary ostrich lies abed,
  5. Babylon fell and all were incensed.
  6. Paradigm of porters' skill,
  7. I cannot still endure the gaze of Huckleberry Finn.

Listen to reading

Labour saving African assistant to the Duke
Found no other person there with whom he could rebuke,
Lazing in the foundry with the others of his tribe
With a jar of Walter's whisky he'd forgotten to imbibe.
In the Duke's apartment stands a traitor to his race,
With a vivid purple kerchief press'd tightly to his face,
Anvils in his haversack and horseshoes in his hand,
Trumpets for his cousins who're musicians in our band.
Anything he welds will turn to dross come Christmas Day,
Which with effort we'll endure though there's little more to say,
Traitor to his union, his profession, and his friends.
"Waiter, where's the onion, a confession, make amends!"
African attendants bringing garlic pumpkins hurry in,
Able seamen chanting, their stranded mothers worryin',
Lost on coral islands where the tiger holds his sway,
Occupied with thoughts that call to creditors, "Repay!"
Waiter, where's the water? What's this fluid in the jug?
Traitor, have they caught her? Fetch a beaker or a mug.
Where's the humble african? The Welder? The Elite?
Fares please, sir. Remind her of the French fleet.
Stranded in the Hellespont with scurvy running wild,
Handed to the teller's point with the winners getting riled,
The Dardanelles Alarum bells were wringing in the poop.
The Africans had served the Duke on bread with bowls of soup.
Shanty towns were palaces beside their simple homes,
Paper covers covering their piles of learned tomes,
Tomes the Welder read in piercing tones to all that heard,
Tones the Welder used to incense his mother's herd,
Cows that were to Ulysses as Homer is to me.
Homer's where your heart is, irretrievably.

Acrimonious, ineffably large,
The Countess attempted to scuttle the barge.
Agatha Christie would shortly discharge
The pistol which started the battle.
"A battle once fought is over and done."
The King is the winner, who loses, his son?
Made from his liver, a venomous bun,
A gun which began as a rattle.

Pegasus flew to the East in rebuttal.
Old King Cole barged in and tempted the scuttle,
A move made ingenious and thereby so subtle
That cowering cats turn to oysters.
Oranges open'd, that oranges cower.
O in the morning I hope to grow dour.
Apples so aged they start to go sour
Though stored in the cool of the cloisters.

To offer our homes to enemy marksmen.
"Use these as targets -- spare our remarks." Then
Take to the waters -- the first man embarks when
A horse can be dredged from the sea.
This spirit engendered, our cause is more favour'd,
Agatha strengthened the many who wavered.
Chekhov inspired the others who quavered.
The minimum mentor was me.

"The dangers inherent in eating a spoon
Are many and varied, little and few".
The speech of the Gorgon was bland.
But armies compel us to eat the meal soon,
To scoff from the velveteen hand
That Helen has brought to our crew.

Our crew of deserters, our horses of oak,
Our men with the sordid display,
The player who mended his sword,
The sight of such villains would cause me to choke
In unison, or in a chord,
My fears to increase, not allay.

Our lay is the air that the flautist abhors.
I judge you, the sentence is horrid.
The publisher shuns my defence.
The defendant is summoned; his only recourse
(As the sentence is not without sense)
Is weeping and clasping the forehead.

And Paris repeated, with forks in his tongue,
Invasion is imminent, shortly they'll come.
The speech of Cassandra resounds.
Call on the bugles, let matins be sung,
On pagan, or once-pagan grounds.
Gather the cuttings to paste in an album.

The wary ostrich lies abed,
A pillow hides his weary head
And thus is found the real way
Of turning sombre night to day.

In contrast sleeps the wicked snail
Imprisoned in a whitewash pail.
His motive forms a waxen scheme
In hives of bees which haunt his dream.

There dreams of these pellucid whelks
Who hold the reins of deers or elks
With such command and able skill
No mollusc's judge could call them ill.

In deepest slumber's found the stoat.
German ermine forms his coat
And though asleep he hums a note
And snores a carefree chorus.

A bear, yes, he, too, finds a nap.
He chooses to ignore us.
He sleeps without a sleeping-cap,
Quaffs his nightcap lap by lap.

Only we're awake to strut the stage.
Candelabras flicker in the cage,
A fitting memento to our golden age,
Mirrors for the wrath that's all the rage.

Babylon fell and all were incensed.
Noone should authorize such a demise.
The hosts encamp'd around in tents
Forbid their guests the true disguise,
Forbid their guests their evening ties,
Their bows, and shows, and furbelows,
The pelerine grey, the jacket that glows,
As the trumpet redounds "Atta Turk!"

Wary of Emperors, cheating and devious
Forty leagues onward I cautiously crept.
Then came there a voice, "The gods, then they leave you us."
Attaturk crumpled. Babylon wept.
Oligarchs erudite chattered and slept.
The shards of guards, with leotards,
The death of Elo‹se, now Abelard's,
Never to queue in the kirk.

Lost in the forum, wandering lonely,
Not like a whale nor a camel besides,
Far from family, the church in Stoneleigh,
Memory Cain Ark and Abel elides.
Down in the garden the serpent-like glides
Grieve that Eve will not believe
We've got to leave to find reprieve.
Noah holds the lease of Eden.
"It's true, I swear, indeed, 'n
If you're on the way to Weedon
Take this bear and hourly feed'n."

Paradigm of porters' skill,
Phosphorus! The grimmest pill.
Arabesques to loosen tongues,
Pilgrims to the cloistered lungs,
There immersed with evil plans,
Windy Wendy meets her fans.
Enjoin'd to secrecy, they attest
Examination would be best.
"What the price now Olive's here?"
"Stoned as usual, my dear!"
"Find a doctor, swallow this."
"In this bottle kindly peer?
Say again, I didn't hear."
"Deafness follows too much beer,"
He muttered gaily with a leer,
The Carol Singer's getting near
Imbue me with a sense of fear.
Make me from the window veer.
Tiresias he, the blinded seer,
Reputedly a raving choir-master,
Ravished a maiden and reputedly cast her
Into the depths of disaster,
Bandaged her links with elasto-plaster,
Pledged to talk faster and faster,
Sculpted with skill from white alabaster,
He always was an ungrateful little brother.
And once in bed he would demand another `goodnight kiss'.
Windy Wendy and Peter Pan
Fell in love with the dustbin man.
Finish the Footnote as best you can,
Finish however thou list.

I cannot still endure the gaze of Huckleberry Finn.
The primal sin is the safety pin
That choked his brother.
The Sawyer Tom eschews my gaze as I the gaze of Lot,
The ocelot, the ill-begot,
I loathe no other.

Euridice's advice is good, but better than the King
Whose diamond ring, (Amœbus thing)
Beguiles my mother.
Instead of salt I conjure you to season meat with cloves,
Such wheaten loaves, such borogoves?
Provide no cover.

A racing horse is fed on cloves to thicken up his main
Meal of mixed grain, reducing pain
Within another.
The wife of Lot, the life of Wot, the wifely lot is Woe.
Armadillo, plated pillow, Pussy willow,
There to smother Whistler's lover.

And I am left in clover while my sisters throng the hive.
Do I need to find your home or do you have a garage?
May I say your talking is a most unseemly barrage?
Will you come with me and drive away in this my handsome carriage?
Would you judge your person to be dead or half-alive?
Come live with me, or would it end in marriage,
Would it end in Harwich?
There is no woman I would knowingly disparage,
Though I shun the gaze of Huckleberry Finn.

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