(a poem by David E. Manuel)
Deep in the limitless Featherweight Forest,
The animals play and laugh.
Frolicking gaily, why, even the smallest
There fear no predator's wrath.
Leopards and lambkins share shade from a tree
With thoughts neither brutal nor crude.
Snakes and chimpanzees serve crumpets and tea:
Hyenas are kindly, not lewd.
Owlish compatriots muse over beer,
Discussing the bubbles that glisten;
Pause on occasion to honor, revere
Lost friends who failed to listen
To warnings repeated through decades in troth:
Beware Ye! Beware Ye the Lobeless Sloth!
No creature is safe, when alone in the dark,
From the Sloth‑Without‑Lobes' reign of terror.
More dreaded than even the Nondescript Snark,
Quite as deadly as Clerical Error,
It hides in the hollows of Petrified Wood
Where the Rubricon River turns right,
An ear to the ground for the fall of a foot
In the hope of a misstep or slight.
One drop of the guard and it leaps to the path
With a comment or two for the traveller:
That algebra follows from linear math;
How a judge is indifferent to gavellers.
Once hypnotized by some moronical dictum,
An innocent beast becomes Lobeless Sloth's victim.
Like a spider, the Sloth is surrounded by stiffs
Comatose from its sedating glower.
To Lagosian Slopes and the Kasserine Cliffs
Word has spread of its somnial power.
In the burrows and lairs of this animal world
Parents warn cubs and kids of the threat;
Not to listen to nonsense invitingly swirled
In the fog of the Lobeless Sloth's sweat.
Yet for every good beastling inspired by the warning
To caution, traversing the Badlands,
Some delinquents fall victim, cause maternal mourning
And fatherly wringing of sad hands.
The mesmerized minions stand pressed in Sloth's cave,
Obedient, quiet, incompetent slaves.
Reports of each overdue loved‑one set off
A cacophony of tears and sorrow,
Disturbing the musings of Pandrice Pilaf,
Noted scholar, by suffering harrowed.
This hero set out to destroy the Sloth once,
Armed with magical tools for protection
From lunatic ravings espoused by a dunce
Or the dangers of blind obfuscation.
In the darkest Deciduous Dale he demanded
This tedious tyrant resign,
Allow innocent imps to pass unreprimanded,
Stop Featherweight Forest's decline:
He brandished the terrible Truncheon of Truth
To vanquish the Sloth, liberate yawning youth.
The Sloth did not quiver or furrow its forehead;
It hadn't a forehead to furrow.
This ancient behemoth sat silent and sported
A stare penetrating and thorough.
Its manner suggested that others had quested
To end such unpleasant dominion:
Its presence attested to failure, congested
Poor Pilaf's beliefs and opinions.
Brave Pandrice then girded his loins and his doubts
To prepare for a conflict gigantic;
Deploying his shield, magic Flagon of Stout,
He advanced, neither timid nor frantic.
He raised high his weapon to smash the beast's beak,
But froze in his footsteps: the creature did speak:
"No doubt, your intentions are noble, good squire,
Liberating the weak and the guilty:
Fear not, I would happily move on, retire,
If the question were one of ability.
A fool doth believe that the Just and the Good
Are the same in Peoria and Persia:
With higher authority, I haunt this wood,
Duty‑bound to the Law of Inertia.
Lay down the dread armaments, deadly and fierce;
I can see by your stoop, you grow weary.
Some other day, hated Leviathan pierce,
When your eyes are less heavy, less dreary.
I offer you respite from drudgery fraught
With debate. Lay down and abandon your thoughts."
Almost the dull droning defeated the champion,
Bowed his good sense to illogic.
Almost blind intoning exiled to oblivion
Reason for simplistic magic.
The scholar's convictions grew hopelessly hazy;
He questioned his lifelong direction,
While conscience itself lounged among lack-a-daisies
As if slowed by some strange infection.
But just as the Sloth's talons stretched out to grapple
This foe now immobiled with doubt,
Pandrice uttered a powerful mystic word: "Scrapple!"
And walloped the great creature's snout!
(By fortuitous study of ancient anthology
He'd mastered Principii Con Melanchology.)
A contest of epic proportions erupted;
The ground shook in far Vapid Village.
With horrid invective, Sloth nearly disrupted
Pan's deadliest lecture on tillage.
For nearly a week the two bantered and brayed
Dialogue surely fatal to mortals,
Refusing to yield, though onlookers, dismayed,
Fled in panic to Porcelain Portals.
When Pilaf expounded with elegant noise
A theory of morals methodical,
The Sloth wavered slightly, recovered its poise
With questions phenomenological.
Not one of poor Pandrice's positivist probes
Could counter the skill of the beast without lobes.
Exhausted, the forest's last hope of salvation
Retreated with anguish horrific:
Unable at last to contrive disputation
Of Sloth's elegies soporific,
He barely escaped endless ennui, bowed
To the creature's malevolent strength;
Once ensconced safely back in his study, he vowed
To keep worldly concerns at arm's length.
The Sloth, although shaken by Pan's daunting challenge,
Dismayed by a scholar unmastered,
Exhorted the forest acknowledge its dalliance,
Continued its dominion dastard'.
A hush covered Featherweight Forest for days
After Pandrice returned with a somnolent gaze.
Thus, Featherweight Forest remains quite a wonder,
Almost the long‑fantasized Eden,
Where squirrels might frolic or elephants ponder
Unworried by danger or treason.
Yet heroic effort to blot out the blemish
Bemarring utopian place
Failed to excise the shadow of lethargy, banish
Stupidity's cowardly face.
Still, animals wallow in relative bliss
In a wood not too terribly sad,
Never bothered by anger or venomous hiss;
Where most every occasion is glad.
But all suffer still this one sobering troth,One must ever beware the Lobeless Sloth.