Bill Butler made a shopping trip each Friday, to the town,
Astride his silver bicycle he’d purchased for a crown;
For this was many years ago when pace of life was slow
And cars were deemed a luxury for Sunday drives, and show;
Not meant for simple bachelors with simple fare to seek—
Comprising ample sausages to last him through the week.

The trip from shack by dusty track took half an hour at most,
Then followed with a left hand turn around the bound’ry post;
A puff or two to catch his breath, hellos bid left and right
From residents who took delight when Bill rode into sight.
And having reached the butcher shop at number forty-four;
Bill leant his bike against a tree, and headed through the door.

The butcher knew the order (it was always the same thing):
Ten pounds of thin beef sausages in one unbroken string;
Prepared for Bill with practised skill, employing casings stout
To take account of ruts and bumps met on the homeward route;
And with a flourish worthy of conductors leading bands;
He wrapped the meat in paper, then he placed it in Bill’s hands.

Bill said “Please put the order on my regular account.
I’ll have the same next Friday—and the usual amount.”
The butcher didn’t mince his words, and so they came out coarse:
“For love of God! Next week try steak! You’re blinkered like a horse!”
With twinkling eye, and humor dry, Bill answered extra quick:
“Next week, for my beef sausages, let’s change from thin to thick!”

Still deep in thought at how his comeback “trimmed the butcher’s rind,”
He tied the parcel poorly on the carrier behind;
Allowing thumps from sausage jumps to breach the butcher’s wrapping
Until the banger last in line commenced a rearward flapping
By wriggling through the paper with his beefy mates in tow;
While Bill continued pressing down the pedals, high to low.

And as I’m sure you have observed; when gravity and speed
Combine to pull a sausage string, they usually succeed
In stretching to the full extent its mass of mince and skin
Into a tail, a meaty sail, for which I can’t begin
To best describe the air of grace such incidents impart
To thoroughfares where people there declare it “sausage art.”

When Bill, by chance, took backward glance, he couldn’t help but smile
At dogs whose speed belied their breed, strung out for half a mile,
In hot pursuit of what he’d planned for breakfast, lunch and dinner;
And came the thought that by week’s end he’d look a little thinner.
“Oh, never mind! It’s all my fault!” Said Bill, “I’ll take the blame;
For pride before a homeward ride has put me off my game.”

The story spread by word-of-mouth from witnesses who saw
That sausage string defy belief and Newton’s second law!
For though his bike had turned the bend, around the intersection,
Those sausages kept trailing through a quarter turn direction.
And now where Main Street intersects with William Butler Drive,
They call it “Sausage Corner”— just to keep the joke alive!

 

 

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.


NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.

29 Responses

  1. David O'Neil

    Delightful! The metrical craft and good-humored wit brought even more pleasure on a second read. It reminds me of a song my dad used to sing about Don Derbeck’s sausage-making machine.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks so much Derek. I haven’t heard the song about Don Derbeck’s Sausage-making machine, but it sounds like a very fond memory.

      Reply
  2. Martin Rizley

    Humorous and very well crafted with a clever use of colloquialisms. The steady rhythm never skips a beat, and the use of frequent internal rhyme makes it all the more musical in its flow.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thank you Martin. Your comments regarding the poem’s crafting and rhythm are much appreciated. My use of internal rhyme probably stems from a love of Banjo Paterson’s wonderful ballads.

      Reply
  3. Monty

    This is different class, David: a truly fetching yarn, written so skilfully and deftly as to keep the reader firmly within its clutch to the very end. It’s easily the best I’ve seen from you on these pages . . outstanding.

    For such a lengthy piece, I’m impressed with your perseverance to maintain full and strong rhymes throughout (apart from stout/route) without cutting corners with the odd near-rhyme; and also that you maintained the same steady beat all the way through . . real craft. There were also a few nuggets of diction, such as “..with a flourish worthy of conductors leading bands”: and the brilliant “..dogs whose speed belied their breed” (one could instantly imagine even the most ungainly of breeds somehow summoning up some speed in the pursuit of sausages).

    A minor quibble: In S4,L2, I notice that you’ve tried to wrench the two-syllable word ‘usual’ into three syllables to maintain the meter. I assume it’s pronounced the same way in Aus as it is in Britain: yoo-zjaul.. 2 syllables. To try stretching it to three syllables would make it sound something like: yoo-zjoo-ale . . which bears no relation at all to how we pronounce it. But regardless of any syllable-bickering, the whole metre thing could’ve been simply tidied-up with the insertion of the word ‘set’:
    “I’ll have the same next Friday – and the usual set amount.”

    Again, well played, David: your piece would grace the pages of any humorous-poetry anthology.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I agree with Monty on his praise of the admirable craft of this highly entertaining epic of a poem. I do not, however, agree with him on the syllable count of “usual”. For me the syllable count is three. This means that your chosen line in S4, L2 is perfect in my book. I’m from the UK and speak the Queen’s English. My dad, however, is a cockney and his version of “usual” would agree with Monty’s analysis (two syllables), which could explain his critique.

      As far as “stout” and “route” are concerned, this rhyme is perfect in my husband’s Texan English and I’m sure this is so in other American states. In British English it doesn’t rhyme. The Brits phonetic pronunciation of this word is “root”, hence Monty’s accurate comment. Obviously, in your region, the phonetic pronunciation of route is “rout”.

      Poetry is tricky when it comes to regional pronunciations and stresses. As readers of poetry, we should be sensitive and aware of regional differences.

      David Watt, I love your poem.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        You are right, Susan. “Route” pronounced as root or rout are interchangeable in American vernacular, and it depends on the speaker and the context. A route (rout) a wide receiver runs in the NFL is one thing, but Route (root) I-40 is another.

      • David Watt

        Hello Susan, thanks for your kind feedback.

        Pronunciation is a rather tricky subject. There are regional differences within countries, between different age groups, and across wider boundaries. I believe we should do our best to meet the majority of reader’s expectations, and to maintain smooth meter. For my part, I generally opt for what I perceive as the American version of certain words, such as ‘humor’. After all, the SCP, although worldwide in membership and readership, is based in America.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, there is no good excuse for extending “usual” to three syllables, unless one wants to make a point of hyper-correct pronunciation. In the best case, the verb in the third syllable is a schwa, examples of which are so close to non-syllables that they can almost always be elided in a line of poetry. It’s pointless to emphasize, in the context of a metrical line, lexical elements that, by their very nature, are mere ghosts of proper syllables.

      Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello Monty, thank you for your generous comments.

      I enjoyed the writing of this piece, and I believe that this enjoyment came through as a consequence.

      I did work on maintaining the rhythm throughout, and this included making an amendment to one line following Evan’s suggestion.

      In regard to the word ‘usual’, I followed the Tom Jones precedent helpfully provided by Mike. Rightly or wrongly, I intended that the word should be pronounced with three syllables in this poem. I find that the word ‘usual’ is still pronounced as three syllables by many of the older generation in Australia. However, I do take your point, as pronunciation does vary.

      My rhyme pairing of stout/route is an interesting point. The word ‘route’ used to be always pronounced as ‘root’ in Australia when I was considerably younger. Now, we seem to be adopting the pronunciation which rhymes with gout. I always thought that this was more towards an American pronunciation. C.B.’s comment shows that the pronunciation in America is not as clear-cut as I had thought.

      Take care Monty in these difficult times.

      Reply
      • Monty

        Well, I never had any idea, David, that ‘route’ is pronounced as ‘rout’ by some in America; especially in view of the song-line ‘get your kicks on route 66’. Why would they allow the pronunciation to deviate to the extent that it becomes a completely different word? Is there any other purpose it can serve other than the potential to lead to unnecessary confusion? Imagine two young friends in America debating which route to take at a junction: both being young, one’s only ever heard ‘route’ as ‘root’, and the other’s only ever heard it as ‘rout’. “D’you know the quickest rout”? “The quickest what?” “Rout.” “What’s a rout?” “You know, the quickest way.” “Oh, you mean root.” “No, I mean rout.” “But it’s root.” “No, it’s rout.” . . and so on. Of course they’ll both learn the truth at some stage (maybe later that day, when they get home and ask their mums) . . but why, oh why create unnecessary confusion? One word, one pronunciation: simple for all.

        Either way, David, I feel that, in all cases, you should always write in your own standard vernacular. Just because you intend to submit a poem to an American website, it doesn’t mean you have to write it in the American vernacular, unless you’ve got no ambition of the poem going any further than that website. But you should always look at the bigger picture: route/stout could prevent your poem being published at a British website, and could affect its chances in a British poetry competition.

        Before CB mentioned the word above, I was unfamiliar with the word ‘schwa’, so I looked it up: ‘An indistinct vowel sound’.. ‘A neutral vowel’ . . and as we know, ‘indistinct’ means ‘not clear’. Another source said: ‘English has a tendency to delete a schwa syllable’ . . which exemplifies perfectly why CB describes ‘usual’ as containing two syllables and a schwa.. meaning the potential third syllable – although visible in writing – is ‘indistinct’ or ‘deleted’ in speech; which in itself exemplifies perfectly how ‘usual’ can never be stretched to more than two-and-a-quarter syllables; which is as good as saying two syllables.

        Like CB said: “There’s no good excuse for extending ‘usual’ to three syllables”.. unless, I might add, one’s trying to wrench it to fit the metre. In this case, you had three syllables to fill, so you tried to stretch ‘usual’ to three. But I feel that if you’d only had two syllables to fill, you wouldn’t have hesitated to use ‘usual’ as two. For example, if you wrote an 8-beat line:
        ‘I picked my keys from off the floor, and put them in their usual place’ . . you would’ve been totally content to use ‘usual’ as two syllables, and anyone reading would naturally read it as two syllables. Not one reader would pause and think: “This doesn’t scan: there’s an extra syllable”. It’s the same with the line I used as an example in my previous missive:
        ‘I’ll have the same next Friday – and the usual set amount.’ See? In the context of the line, it naturally reads as two syllables.

        You shouldn’t take the slightest bit of notice at the above commenter’s example of the Tom Jones song. Of course Jones stretched ‘unusual’ to four syllables to fit with the music: and literally millions of other songwriters have done similar things with words. They can get away with it in songs: not only is it accepted practice, but it’s also one of the vital functions of songwriting. It also happens to be one of the main criterions by which we distinguish between the writing of songs and the writing of poetry. They’re two completely different animals. I thought most people knew that, but the commenter plainly doesn’t.

        If I had an hour to spare, I could sit here and quote hundreds of songs which brazenly contort syllables to blend with the music: as is a songwriter’s wont. But I ain’t got an hour to spare, so I’ll make do with just one example by Lennon/Mac:

        ‘You think you’ve lost your love
        Well I saw her yesterday-yay
        It’s you she’s thinking of
        And she told me what to say-yay’

        D’you see what I’m saying, David? To say that ‘unusual’ can be used as four syllables in poetry – just ‘coz of the way it’s used in the song – is like him trying to tell you that ‘yesterday’ can also be used as four syllables in poetry: and ‘say’ as two syllables. I trust you can now see the futility of the Tom Jones example.

        (Another one just sprang to mind, in which Bowie extends ‘show’ to two syllables in ‘Life on Mars’:
        ‘Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know
        He’s in the best-selling shaa-hoe)

        Whenever I encounter a good story-poem, I normally try not to attach any thought as to whether the story’s real or imagined. I’ve always felt that it shouldn’t be my concern, and I should just absorb the story as a story. As such, when I first read your piece a cuppla daze ago, the thought never entered my mind. But before writing this missive, I re-read it again, and for some reason, I couldn’t help but start wondering: ‘Did he imagine this?’.. to the extent that I now find myself mildly curious. Of course you’re under no obligation to tell me (many good authors wouldn’t); but I ask only in the sense that if you DID imagine it, I’d feel compelled to throw a little extra praise your way.

      • Mike Bryant

        I can’t believe that Monte had to look up “schwa”. Since I was in my mother’s womb I have known that “schwa” is an upside down small letter “e” that represents the “uh” sound. However, Monty Med is an excellent poet so I am probably wrong. If you don’t believe me, just use the search feature to look up his poem. Search “Monty Med” to get an idea of the absolute genius of his poetic gift!

      • Mike Bryant

        David,
        I forgot to mention that you might also search “Writer’s Clock” to find Monty’s masterpiece. Enjoy!

    • David Watt

      Hello Monty, I take your point about choosing rhyming word pairs, such as route/stout which are as clear as possible to the majority of readers. It makes a lot of sense to consider choices/options carefully.

      I hadn’t anticipated all the healthy discussion concerning the word ‘usual’. I can see that this word is very often pronounced as a two syllable word. If I was to read my own poem, I would extend the word to three syllables in this instance. Again, we probably come back to initial word choice/options.

      The story behind my poem is pure fiction, but does originate from an anecdote heard many years ago and greatly embellished.

      Reply
      • Monty

        . . . in which case, David, out of all the praise I initially heaped on ‘Butler’.. I hereby heap another 10%. “Embellished” is the perfect word to describe what you’ve done with the original “anecdote”.

        Have you (or do you intend to) sent ‘Butler’ to any other avenues on the globe? Are there many (any?) Aussie websites that deal in proper poetry? If so, is ‘Butler’ on its way to any of them?

        I wonder what your thoughts are on the two comments that’ve recently appeared above your last one? One of them’s not even addressed to anyone: the commenter is literally talking to himself. Why would he ever wanna trespass upon your page to talk to himself about his own concerns . . none of which concern you? Strange behaviour. One can only assume that he’s still sulking after being made to look silly (again) over the Tom Jones thing.

        And as for the other comment: I trust you can see as well as I can what’s actually happening here . . he’s entered your page unsolicited, to try persuading you to join him in ridiculing me. How twisted can you get? Given that us three have never met, then what he’s actually trying to do – and this is the real tragedy – is this: Someone who doesn’t know you (him) is trying to get someone he doesn’t know (you) to join someone who you don’t know (him) in ridiculing someone who neither of you know (me), and I know neither of you! Who does that? Can anyone be that lacking in self-confidence that they’ve gotta try so desperately to get others on their side? Phew!

        You should tell him straight not to be so disrespectful in hijacking your page, and to take his petty squabbles elsewhere. But to say nothing to him will be equally effective; ‘coz he’s only ever seeking a reaction. Hence, ignoring him will pain him.. so much so that he’ll send another comment anyway. You watch: he won’t be able to resist it. He needs to seek that reaction.

        We’ve got a simple word in England for reaction-seekers . . Pest!

    • David Watt

      Hello again Monty. I may send ‘Bill Butler’ (with maybe one or two word changes) to an Australian poetry competition in the future. There are still some traditional ‘Bush Verse’ avenues open.

      As for the two comments you mention; I can only say that I wouldn’t get caught up in ridiculing any poet for their work or their comments, unless I had a sound reason to do so. There is usually more than enough to comment on in a poem regarding meter, word choice, theme, and overall poetic effect.

      Reply
      • Monty

        I don’t recognise your word ‘may’, David. To me, it shouldn’t be the case that you ‘may’ send Butler to an Aussie competition; it should be “I ‘will’ send..”. How can you not, for the sake of pressing a few buttons? And not only competitions, but also websites which publish poetry. If they refuse it, it’ll only be because they’re not interested in ‘proper’ poetry any more; in which case you can still hold your head high and say: “My poem’s too good for them.”

        I must say that I don’t hear too much in the way of Aussie poetry; and I couldn’t name one Aussie poet! There are a couple of New Zealanders – Fleur Adcock and Sam Hunt – with whose work I’m fairly familiar, but Aussies? I never hear the words ‘australia’ and ‘poetry’ in the same sentence. Is that ‘coz of my ignorance, or is there currently a dearth of poetry down there? If it’s the latter, there could be a niche for someone who can produce bona fide Aussie ballads in serious poetic form. And who’s to say that that ‘someone’ couldn’t be you? I agree that it might sound far-fetched: but it’ll be even more far-fetched if you didn’t start sending ‘Butler’ to various outlets!

        Get it out there, David: let it be seen. If it’s out there, even a musician might see it and think: “I could make a song out of this” (in the way that the great Harry Chapin used to sing long story-songs).

        Regarding he who trespassed upon your page, you were right to ignore his plead. He’s been a pest on this site for many weeks now, but in recent days he’s become really demented. He should be warned by Mr Mantyk for trying to involve innocent readers in his twisted, puerile games. Incidentally, let me show you the piece to which he was referring, David, to see what you think of it. The ironic thing about the poem is that I wrote it while I was writing another poem! Let me explain: During the 90’s, I wrote a long poem deriding the English Lottery, which’d recently started. It was the first proper poem I ever wrote, and it took me ages to complete (40-50 hours, spread over 20-odd days). One night, I sat down around 11pm to continue with the poem, the hours flew by (as they do when writing), and I suddenly heard a bird cheep outside, the first cheep of the day.

        I thought: “No, it can’t be.. it’s only about 3am.” So I looked round at the clock, and it was something like 5:20am. Then I noticed the first crack of light coming through the top of the curtains. And I stopped writing for a moment, and just sat back in sheer contemplation at how hopelessly lost one can become in writing, losing all sense of time: and how writing can stimulate the mind to the extent that it overrides any thoughts of tiredness . . . and I just started scribbling a few words down to describe the moment, and after about 30-40 minutes, I had:

        I should be asleep!
        But try as I might,
        I can’t but keep
        Wanting to write.

        Not only deep
        Into the night:
        But till birds cheep . .
        An’ it’s all but light.

        D’you see what I mean, David. It’s a valid little piece, ‘coz I was right in that moment when I wrote it. I used to joke with friends at the time that it was like a ‘live’ poem, ‘coz I was writing it as I was feeling it. Add to that the irony of writing a poem while in the middle of writing another one!

        Anyway, I just wanted you to know that that’s the piece the demented one above was pleading with you to search for, hoping that you’d join him in ridiculing it.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    David,

    I would like to make a point about word usage in your first stanza. “Comprise” is a tough word. In general, the whole comprises the parts, and so we would say, “The U.S.A. comprises all fifty states. I think that “Composed of” would be more accurate than “Comprising” in the last line of that stanza.

    Your poem made me smile in certain places, but I think (I know!) you can do better than a mock epic.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello C.B.
      ‘Comprise’ is a difficult word. When writing this poem, I weighed up the very two options you mention: comprise and compose. As you can see, I opted for ‘comprise’. Thanks for you explanation regarding the distinction between these two words.

      I guess my poem does raise Bill Butler to some sort of heroic status. I don’t mind raising mundane subjects to a higher level, especially for a laugh. (if that’s what you mean by mock epic). It may not be to everyone’s taste.

      Reply
  5. Mike Bryant

    David,
    I cannot imagine how difficult it must’ve been to write this highly amusing poem. You have a real facility these wonderful narratives that are best read aloud. As far as the word “usual”goes, I agree with Susan. I think Tom Jones wants to chime in.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello Mike,

      I’m glad you found the narrative entertaining. I loved the input from Tom Jones! Thanks very much.

      Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    David – exceedingly funny and is it the first heptameter poem I’ve seen on these pages? and that in itself must be difficult to sustain but you’ve done it admirably. If ever I go back to Canberra I’m going to take a folding bike in my hand luggage. There seems to be a four-mile walk between every house. It’s a wonderful place though.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello Peter – I chose to write this as a heptameter poem in order to squeeze in sufficient detail in the narrative. I’m glad you enjoyed the laughs along the way.

      Canberra is a stretched out city, with bush between suburbs, and plenty of room between houses (particularly in the more established areas). A bike is a good option where purpose-built paths are available. You’re welcome to look me up if you’re ever in Canberra.

      Reply
  7. Amy Foreman

    David, your ballads are droll, diverting, and delightful, and “Bill Butler Leaves His Mark” is no exception!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks so much Amy. We need some diversion at present with the CCP virus and its far-reaching consequences.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.