Seven of Spades: Happy, Ending

Two sevens of spades, one showing sheep, with a knife and fork magnet, and one plain. The words \This is the story of the happy ending,
where Mary and her little lamb play.
Of lamb, from human girl befriending,
to lessons in happiness stray.

Where Mary and her little lamb play
it’s tiring, so Mary would take it
to lessons, in happiness, stray.
A lamb, what a day it would make it!

It’s tiring, so Mary would take it
Said Father that very same night.
A lamb! What a day. It would make it?
That it would just wake, be alright!

Said Father that very same night
“You’ll bury what’s left.” No impression
that it would just wake, be alright,
its grave but a little depression.

You’ll bury what’s left no impression;
the sick one had not been her friend.
It’s grave, but a little depression
would not bring her world to an end.

The sick one had not been her friend,
she prayed in her panic that he
would not bring her world to an end.
He slaughtered the neighbours, not Mary.

She prayed in her panic that he
would not murder, hurt a loving soul mate.
He slaughtered the neighbours, not Mary.
The friends survive, rejoice, and ruminate.

Would not murder hurt a loving soul, mate?
No matter if a stranger, or a roast?
The friends survive, rejoice, and ruminate
why it’s okay to lose the farthermost.

No matter if a stranger or a roast
of lamb. From human girl befriending:
Why, it’s okay to lose the farthermost.
This is the story of the happy, ending.


This poem is inspired by my experience recently of seeing what I believed to be hirondelles de fenêtre, arbitrarily called house martins in English instead of swallows. Having only read about swallows in fairy tales before moving to Europe, I was quite excited about this. There were two of them, and one seemed to have trouble walking. The next day I saw a dead one in the same place, run over by a car. I wondered whether it was the injured one I’d seen, but I was relieved to remember that I’d seen both birds fly away. Then I wondered why I was relieved… after all, a swallow had been killed, why did it matter whether it was the one I’d seen? Of course, we’re used to this in movies… most of the population of Earth can be killed, but as long as the main character survives, it’s okay.

I tried to think of a way to write about this which wouldn’t sound too sappy, and which had something to do with the cards and letter of the week. Nothing came to mind. By Friday I was getting desperate, so I decided I’d just pick two cards at random and write a bizarrely (or cleverly) justified simile saying that one was like the other. When I drew the plain seven of spades from the St. James’s Gate (The Home of Guinness) deck, I thought I’d have to go back to the drawing (card)board. The sheep card from the ‘Flowers and Animals’ bridge set wasn’t much better. I went back to my work. Five minutes later, I had an idea.

Spades are used for digging… digging graves. So how about if the central character watches seven real or fictional people or animals die, but each time is glad that it wasn’t a friend? How about making the reader happy that the main character doesn’t die either? How about if Mary sits happily on a sheepskin rug, eating lamb stew, relieved that her little lamb has recently escaped death? The first stanza I thought of went like this:

She said, “I am so very glad
the wolves did not take you.”
While lying on a sheepskin rug,
and eating mutton stew.

But I couldn’t think how to continue, and I decided it would be more fun to write as a pantoum. It was during Cecilia Wolloch‘s workshop on pantoums at the 2006 Geneva Writers’ Conference that I discovered I could still write. I wrote a five stanza pantoum during the fifteen minute exercise, and it was well-received by the others in the workshop. I ended up being requested to read it at the end-of-year dinner for the writers’ group. It seems I can write pantoums fairly quickly; I had written most of this poem by Saturday night, so for once, I am not posting at midnight.

The basic idea of a pantoum is that the second and fourth lines of each quatrain are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. In a way this makes it easier to write; once you have written one stanza, you already have half of the next one, and this can pull the story in unexpected directions. Sometimes this works in reverse as well. Often it’s like creating an ambigram; you start off with natural expressions of the two things you want to say, and gradually bring the form of each closer to that of the other, until they match. In both ambigrams and pantoums, there is a danger that the form converged to will be difficult to read.

Rhymes are not required in pantoums, but I decided to give it a go. After all, once you have a rhyme in one stanza, you get it for free in the next. The rhythm is not particularly regular, however. Iambs and lambs appear, but don’t really find their feet.

In the end, the pantoum version of this poem doesn’t have her eating lamb, and it doesn’t feature seven graves, unless she had six neighbours. The dead lamb had to be buried rather than eaten (let’s say it died of scrapie) because I just had to use that grave depression line.

An alternative version uses ‘A lamb, what a treat it would make it!’ and ‘A lamb! What? Treat, it would make it!’ but of course this misses a word in the repetition, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

Challenge for commenters: Write about how a sheep is like a spade. Bonus points for it being a perfectly normal spade at St. James’s Gate, or for the sheep being germanophone.

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  1. #1 by PowerBill on April 21, 2008 - 11:24 am

    Hmmm… Interesting.
    It reminds me I must do a thing for oldscientist. I have found an interesting entry in an old encyclopedia about the possible discovery of a new outermost planet in the solar system. I would like to propose that it be called ‘Pluto’ and perhaps we can send a space probe out to investigate it…
    My scanner works again so I can quote my sources properly now. It will be a change from scanning covers of dozens of books for trademe and only writing descriptions for them.


  2. #2 by PowerBill on April 21, 2008 - 11:26 am

    BTW. a spade is a spade. I recall someone famous once said something like that in latin…


  3. #3 by angelabrett on April 21, 2008 - 12:36 pm

    A space probe? Hmm… better make sure it lands at the poles, where the planet is not moving as fast. Hang on… how did this, the least scientific Thing of late, make you think of oldscientist? And how could you scan covers of dozens of books without a working scanner? And on the subject of Mars (yes, Mars, haven’t you clicked on the other link yet?) and old books, I bet you’d like this one. The title is a misnomer, only the last few chapters are about the Mariner mission, but the rest is a fascinating history of Earthlings’ relationship with Mars.

    Here’s what Jonathan Coulton has to say/sing about Pluto.

    Oh yes, and I finally thought of a simile:

    A germanophone sheep on a bridge (I forgot to mention the pack of cards featuring the sheep was specifically designated as being for bridge) is like a perfectly normal spade at St. James’s Gate. Almost, but not quite, entirely unexpected.


  4. #4 by PowerBill on April 21, 2008 - 11:36 pm

    Hmp! I’m not so impressed by that moon thing. I prefer “they demoted Pluto”. It has better lyrics and a really catchy tune.
    What I am a tad confused by is this. How do you get a tiny thumbnail of your face on this page? I can’t see how to make my head live inside the square. (Square! like a shovel!)


  5. #5 by angelabrett on April 21, 2008 - 11:45 pm

    Ooh, I didn’t know about “they demoted Pluto”! Thanks! I’m listening to it now.

    As for the thumbnail-face (what’s the treatment for that condition?)… well, you have to give up a corner of your soul for it. I’m logged into wordpress, and I have an avatar.


  6. #6 by PowerBill on April 22, 2008 - 12:08 am

    Wow! You must be at your computer! If you didn’t get my email a little earlier to your gmail there is a bit of it I am quite proud of…

    I’ll hunt down that ‘they demoted pluto’ song if you don’t already have it.
    btw a pantoum could use ill and I’ll to good advantage, eh?

    I’ll wind that. Blow snow here!


  7. #7 by Mary Carr on April 25, 2008 - 7:39 am

    Boo Hoo Boo Hoo naming me in your weird stories or is a a poem gone wrong??? to hard for me to follow but I do know that Pluto is no more a planet but just a drop of rubbish in space!!


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