In an old timber town lived a man of renown;
With a chainsaw he couldn’t be beat,
And as quick as you’d say “What’s for dinner today?”
Limbs would fall, cut precise and complete;
And when challengers came, they departed in shame,
With their heads hanging down in defeat.

Charles Magee was his name, though because of his fame,
He was known more as ‘Chainsaw Magee.’
But ‘Old-Timers’ deplored the way that he sawed
With a motorised means to cut tree.
So they worked up a plan, soon agreed to a man –
It was cunning, as cruelty can be.

They said “To be fair, as you’re high in the air,
We can’t tell if you’re cutting correct,
So climb out to the tip, don’t be giving us lip! –
From out there your prowess we’ll detect;
And be certain to smile as you’re cutting in style,
For the newspapers, council elect.”

And so came the day when the town in dismay
Saw Magee of fast chainsaw fall flat,
When out of pride he cut limb on inside,
Fell to earth with a sickening splat!
And now etched in tree, sage advice states for free:
“When you’re out on a limb use a mat!”


David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.

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17 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Fair dinkum, David. Always a pleasure; Always a smile. Keep ’em comin’!

    • David Watt

      Thanks James for your encouragement. A smile or two never goes astray.

  2. Amy Foreman

    A delightfully rollickin’ verse, there, David! Thanks for the chuckle! 🙂

    • David Watt

      I appreciate your comments Amy. I do enjoy looking at the lighter side!

    • David Watt

      Thank you David for your kind comments. I have dabbled with writing picture book texts in the past, and found this to be a challenging area to break into. However, the experience of trying to relate a story with a minimum of superfluous words now continues to direct my thinking.

  3. David Hollywood

    Well done David. I often end up with a wry smile by the time I have finished one of your poems from your always entertaining collection.Many thanks.

    • David Watt

      Thank you David! I am glad you found the poem entertaining.

  4. Walibee Scrude

    A step removed from Aesop’s fables, the tale of Paul Bunyan, or the poems of British-Canadian poet Robert Service, as for example, his “Cremation of Sam McGee,” Mr. Watt continues in the vein of the century-old humourous verse found in works like “Sentimental Bloke” and “Ginger Mick.”

    A creator of unique poetic structures, like the plurelle and the wattle, Mr. Watt attempts novel structures in a hearty, roughshod manner. Beneath his work, the anapest waits patiently to surface at any time it can, as in “Theatre of the Bush,” or predominantly here in “Out on a Limb,” where the metre, when it hits its paradigm, in Mr. Watt’s 6-line stanzas, alternates variant anapestic trimetres with anapestic tetrametres.

    Though purists might recoil at metrical violations, like the slightly off “From out there your prowess we’ll detect,” accented alliteration, like “It was cunning as cruelty can be…” a theme of the poem, or internal rhymes like “deplored/sawed,” it is just such touches that appeal in this violent, comical exposé. Though the poem moves straightforwardly to its final thematic cliché, it is certain touches along the way that add to its overall effect: the E. A. Robinson-like opening; the almost nursery-like premonition of, “Limbs would fall, cut precise and complete”; and the first-word pun of the alliterative “Saw Magee of fast chainsaw fall flat.”

    As Anglophile Wilude Scabere recently noted, not only is there humour in Shakespearean tragedies, but that humour, in general, allows one to deal with the darkest of subjects without resorting to “macabre grotesqueries,” and Mr. Watt deals with just such in his “Out on a Limb.”

    • David Watt

      Thank you Mr. Scrude for your thorough and constructive review. In this poem I have certainly attempted a form in which the metre alternates line by line from tetrametre to trimetre. I tend to write with the story leading the way, and in this case the anapest requires some attention. However, I am heartened that you find the overall effect appealing, and the subject dealt with in a sensitive manner. Looking back, the line with internal rhymes of ‘deplored/sawed could be improved. I am glad you noticed the first-word pun of ‘Saw Magee.’ It occurred by chance, and I then left it for effect.

  5. Walibee Scrude

    Mr. Watt’s comments bring up an important topic, and that is how much can one take from any lyric? The answer is not much. In a work, like Spenser’s romantic epic “Faerie Queene”, literary treasures abound, in Shakespeare’s poetic dramas, gems teem, as in other great works of the traditional English canon; but in nearly all the millions of poems being written in English (as well as other languages) right now, there is not that much one can take, particularly from little baubles. Still there are things that can be nabbed all over the place; and we live in a very exciting and fertile time, as relates to literature. I actually liked Mr. Watt’s rhyme deplored/sawed, because it is unique, and while it is not much at all in the great scheme of things, like Aubrey de Grey’s recent discovery of a 1581-vertex, non-four-colourable unit-distance graph, it is something; and in Grey’s case, a little more exciting, as it adds knowledge to the Hadwiger-Nelson problem.

    Mr. Watt saw the edges of this in his comment on Mr. Wilson’s excellent “Pika” sonnet, which is surprisingly the most Spenser-like sonnet I have seen in the New Millennium.

    Anyway, as I have mentioned before, I really like Poe’s literary analysis (though perhaps not as much as Canadian poet Mr. Gosselin does), because Poe does just that; he gleans tidbits from the writings of all he comes in contact with. I just wish he, like Whitman, Dickinson, and even Longfellow, would have been more expansive (though here I must say Longfellow was trying), like Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, et. al. Ah, humanity.

  6. James Sale

    Very funny – it made me smile – the ending was inevitable, but that seemed to heighten the anticipation of it. And I was struggling to recall what this poem reminded me of, but the ever resourceful Walibee Scrude was to hand: Robert Service, of course. Yes, great fun. Well done.

  7. David Watt

    Thank you so much James for your kind comments. Any comparison to the poetry of Robert Service is much appreciated!


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