The Song of the Prickly Heat

By James Stanley Gilbert

 

With face drawn into a scowl,

With teeth well into his tongue,

Perspiring, like any old leaky pump,

Squirmed a man no longer young.

Scratch, scratch, scratch,

From forehead down to feet!

And still tho' his voice with anger rang,

'Mid grunts and curses he hoarsely sang

This song of the prickly heat!

 

Itch, itch, itch,

Till night drives the day away!

Itch, itch, itch,

Till day drives the night away!

Arms and stomach and legs,

Neck and ankles and back,

Digging them all till they scorch and bleed,

From one to another with lightning speed,

Like a demented jumping-jack!

 

Oh, 'tis off with your coat and vest!

'Tis off with your shoes and pants!

Till, naked and bare, your skin you tear

In a wild St. Vitus dance!

Scratch, scratch, scratch,

With ever-waxing ire!

While into each pore a needle darts,

And the cuticle burns and shrivels and smarts,

Like blisters of hell's own fire!

 

Itch, itch, itch,

While the months a-whirling go!

Itch, itch, itch,

As the years to decades grow!

Oh, God, for a moment's rest!

Or if I can't be granted that,

In one spot quench the teasing flame,

Or blot that spot from my tortured frameó

The spot that I can't get at.

 

With face drawn into a scowl,

With teeth well into his tongue,

Perspiring, like any old leaky pump,

Squirmed a man no longer young.

Scratch, scratch, scratch,

From forehead down to feet!

And still tho' his voice with anger rang,

'Mid grunts and curses he hoarsely sang

This song of the prickly heat!