A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I wrote a poem called The Fly That Wouldn’t Die for a friend of mine’s nephew and niece. They loved it and demanded it to be read to them again and again and again. I didn’t come back to it until 2001, when I wrote The Gnu Who Said Poo for my own children. I changed the characters in Fly to tie in with Gnu and that gave me the idea of starting a cycle of nine poems part way through the story and ending it exactly where it started. It wasn’t a new idea – I’d seen the very same construct in the film Pulp Fiction – but I thought if that idea was good enough for Quentin Tarantino then it was good enough for me to steal. I came back to it again over the last couple of years and tidied it up and now here it is spread out over nine weeks.
The Gnu Who Said Poo
Mr Gnu had a business to run,
From his truck he delivered manure by the ton.
He delivered to farms, to gardens and the like
And when his truck wasn’t working he delivered it by bike.
“His manure is incredible!” one customer did vent,
“Surely it must contain some secret ingredient!”
“Rubbish!” roared Gnu. “It’s all very natural,
It’s organic and perfect for all things pastoral.”
Word of Gnu’s magnificent by-product
Spread over bridges and even a viaduct –
From the gardener who was using it for his rose bed,
To the farmer who had settled way down in the Med.
Adverts appeared on more than one TV station
Declaring that Gnu was an overnight sensation.
But as his wealth and his stature exponentially accrued,
So did his ego. In short – he became rude.
He was obnoxious and surly and often pedantic,
But his customers regarded him as merely eccentric.
He was the king of manure, untouchable, he thought –
But that was before his delivery to The Court.
The Court was the place where a kind of royalty did dwell,
The home of Mr Buzz-Ard and Mr Tur-Tel.
They were rich and powerful and had great influence
Throughout the land where Gnu sold his unique effluence.
Gnu was dressed in clothes made of leather,
And he delivered his manure in all kinds of weather.
Last week he’d been crushed by a hit-and-run driver –
But that didn’t stop him – he’d do anything for a fiver.
He pulled up to the gates of The Court in his truck
That was loaded to capacity with his fine smelling muck.
A bell on the gate announced his arrival,
Which was answered in time by a lizard called Nigel.
“I’ve been stood at this gate for what seems like a week,”
Said Gnu, thinking Nigel was a bit of a freak.
He was wrong, for Nigel was somewhat reserved.
“Have patience,” said the lizard, “and you will be presently served.”
“Now, how can I help you?” Nigel asked, his eyes moving furtively.
“I’ve a truck load of manure!” Gnu replied over-assertively.
“I can see that,” said Nigel, “but for whom is it for?”
“It’s for whomever,” said Gnu, “lives behind that big door.”
Gnu grunted and pointed to the big door of The Court.
“Ah,” said Nigel, “it’s just what I thought.
Mr Buzz-Ard did indeed make an order
For manure to spread on his hyacinth border.”
“Wait here,” said the lizard, “and I shall go off to tell
Of your arrival to Masters Buzz-Ard and Tur-Tel.”
Gnu wasn’t happy at being made to wait longer,
And his usual dark mood began to grow increasingly stronger.
Time is Money was a maxim that Gnu was once taught,
And he was wasting his time waiting outside The Court.
He believed he was better than everyone else –
Especially the likes of the Buzz-Ards and Tur-Tels.
It was over an hour before the lizard came back
And Gnu’s darkening mood had by this time turned black.
“I have discovered,” said the lizard, “Mr Tur-Tel,
But I’m afraid he is asleep down by the well.”
“If Tur-Tel is too tired then speak to Buzz-Ard,”
Gnu said very curtly to the stately lizard.
Nigel was hurt by Gnu’s unseemly wrath
And he turned with a flourish and walked back down the path.
When Nigel returned another hour had gone by
And Gnu felt his brain was beginning to fry.
“I have discovered,” said the lizard, “Mr Buzz-Ard,
But I’m afraid he’s asleep at the back of the yard.”
“I don’t care where they are! I don’t care where they’re sleeping!”
Cried Gnu, whose temper was now really peaking.
“Take a message, will you, to those idle two,
And tell them that Mr Gnu is here with the poo!”
“Gracious me!” said the lizard. “You said poo – not manure!
You’re a rough-spoken beast with the mouth of a sewer.
My masters are refined, such a word they’d not utter –
So you can turn round your truck and go back to the gutter!”
Now Gnu climbed into his truck, shouting and screaming
Words that would have embarrassed a cab driver from Ealing.
But as he drove home he had no idea of the mess
Buzz-Ard and Tur-Tel would make of his business.
They spread the word around town that Gnu was offensive,
That his manure was sub-standard and far too expensive.
His business declined because of this chatter
And the townsfolk stopped listening to his usual patter.
Orders were cancelled and his business went bust,
His truck went unused and soon turned to rust.
He stayed in his house and sank into depression,
Unaware he’d been taught a very valuable lesson.
Being rude is not big, it’s not clever or funny.
It cost Mr Gnu a whole lot of money.
His manure was still produced daily – by the ton – lots of it,
But he was now deeply (and literally) well in the debt of a local farmer.
I know what you’re thinking – that last line didn’t rhyme –
And, honestly, I’m working on it – I just need more time.
But if you’ve any suggestions for a substitute conclusion,
Please keep them to yourself – or, preferably, lose them!
Next week: The Fly That Wouldn’t Die