The Invention of Hooky

I doubt it’s in the history books,
but around here we tend to agree
it was Shaddy Leech who invented hooky.
If he was not the inventor, then
young Shaddy was a pioneer,
blazing a trail in the world of hooky.
It started the day he turned thirteen,
which happened to be a sunny Tuesday,
and a Tuesday meant all of the children
would have to recite a dreadful poem,
because Miss Leathers strictly held
the belief that recitation and such
was important to master the English language,
though no one gave a tinker’s damn
about the English language but her,
and she would likely die a martyr
for spelling and pronunciation.
Well, none of this was Shaddy’s strength.
He knew some dirty poems by heart
and would have been glad to recite the one
about Piss-pot Pete, but Miss Leathers
was a prune-faced old biddy
and a terrible prude and thought a poem
ought to provide moral instruction,
especially for a filthy heathen,
of which she regarded Shaddy Leech
a prime example of the species.
Of course Shaddy did not agree with such
a characterization and, further,
found no appeal in the poems that swam
like blind fish on page after page
of the musty book Miss Leathers provided.
Not a single poem in the book
had a knothole in it, or someone who takes
a piss in someone else’s boot
to avenge a scatological slight,
or musters forth a terrible blurt
of wind at a solemn time in church.
So Tuesday morning Shaddy fetched
his fishing pole and dug a can
of worms and slipped on by the school.
He walked to his favorite bend in the river
where he dropped his line in the green water,
and there on the bank in front of God
he recited every dirty poem
that came to his mind and even composed
with flair and rapt, absorbing vision
a few of his own, discovering
a choice word that rhymes with pit,
and another one that rhymes with grass.
He even came up with a fanciful couplet,
proudly bringing size and eyes
into stark contact with each other,
and to cap it off, Shaddy invented
the wanton Felicity Fondlehope,
and put her smack in the bounce of a ballad
that went on for thirty-seven verses,
where she enjoyed round after round
of ribald, colorful adventure.
The next morning, Miss Leathers frowned
at Shaddy. You have a goose egg
for your recitation mark, she said,
I trust you’re proud of your achievement.
Oh, I recited poetry,
Miss Leathers, Shaddy said and grinned
like a possum—but not the kind you like.
The poems I like are in the air,
and all you have to do is listen.
I spent the morning with Piss-pot Pete—
who’s the tragic hero of a romance—
and several that have a knothole in them,
and one about a woman with gas,
but by the afternoon, Miss Leathers,
I was having so much fun, I decided
I’d try some verses of my own
and came up with a lady named
Felicity Fondlehope. Miss Leathers,
I’m here to tell you it’s hard to find
a word that rhymes with Fondlehope,
it’s harder than trying to stuff a pat
of butter up the hind-end
of a wildcat with a hot knife,
but late in the afternoon I found one—
saddle soap, which serves the plot,
and a couple more, friendly grope,
and the final ring of, cantaloupe,
to give the rhyme a trot—and soon
Felicity Fondlehope was hopping
all over the place, escaping travail,
dashing the ploys of devilish men,
scorning prudes with a piercing glare,
then leaving off to take her ease.
It’s a pert-near masterpiece
as far as poem making goes!
Why, Freddy Tennyson would mess
his britches if he ever heard it,
so, yes, Miss Leathers, I’ve fallen short
of the mark you sternly set for me,
but I played hooky for poetry.

Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning's most recent book is One Man's Dark.  His next book, Railsplitter, will be published in 2019.  He teaches at Transylvania University and lives with his family in Kentucky. (Photo credit: Steve Cody.)
Maurice Manning

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Author: Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning's most recent book is One Man's Dark.  His next book, Railsplitter, will be published in 2019.  He teaches at Transylvania University and lives with his family in Kentucky. (Photo credit: Steve Cody.)