The Tale of Ononis
by Rob Neufeld
The Making of a Celebrity
Hare Begins His Tale
Ononis was my region’s name.
People now call it Never-the-same.
I’ll start with the day a delivery came.
The package I got was a devil’s dare,
Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hair
And bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!”
Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,
Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyes
Until fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.
I asked my boss, “You know what this is?”
He just pointed to a lipstick-kiss’s
Imprint from the missive’s missus.
“You’ll need sharp scissors to cut that hair,”
Cracked my newspaper colleague and rival, Claire.
Then guess-who—me—went you-know-where.
On the “Weekly Wangle,” they called me “Sleuth.”
I saw my new story as “A Moment of Truth,”
And opened the package and found—a tooth.
My tongue shot up to a memory spot,
Feeling a hurt in a thing that was not,
But once had been in the Childhood Time Forgot.
I remembered a time, though it’s mostly a blur,
When bees spelled out sweetness yet to occur,
And moms snuffed nits from little kits’ fur.
When the sun rose up, it clicked like a clock,
And I clacked my claws on Dancing Rock.
What came next, I recall as a shock.
Memory of Invasion
The Robbers flew in from Klangenklouth,
The Forbidden City in the land to the south,
And somehow I lost a tooth from my mouth.
Everyone was changed. Mr. Biggy Chew
Lost his ears and cried “cock-a-doodle-doo.”
I was frightened and hid from view.
When I emerged, I was a new rabbit.
I formed a get-to-the-root-of-things habit.
Introduced to the tooth of my youth, I grabbed it.
And so, like a photo bled to the border,
I crowded out the hubbub of every reporter,
And dove into the future like a rat into water.
Joe Crow Shows Up
There appeared in the door a polished crow
A slouch we knew as “Sad-Eyed Joe.”
“Joe,” I asked him, “What’s the new mojo?”
“Ah, Hare,” he replied, ruffling his torso.
“I’m the same as ever, but even more so—.
Beat, like the poet, Gregory Corso.”
“Corso—the bloke who went berserk
In his poem called, ‘Marriage,’ telling a hotel clerk,
‘I deny honeymoon!’? “Yes, that droll jerk.”
Reality Show Offer
“But you!” Joe smirked. “You look like a schnook!
Is that the dress code for reading a book?
I can’t sell that sad-sack, shell-shocked look.”
“But new looks,” he trumpeted, “they’re my specialty!”
And he held out his arms like a voodoo doll effigy.
“I represent the show, ‘Make Me a Celebrity’!”
The Deal’s Already Done
“Just wait a darn minute,” I carped, all kerfuffled,
“Your carnival bark and patois must be muffled.”
“The cards,” Joe crowed, “the cards have been shuffled.”
And he took out a card with a bright silver sheen
That glowed in my face with an ad on its screen:
“On May nineteenth, see Hare wipe his slate clean!”
Hare Meets his Re-maker
I started to shout, “You plan to re-do me?”
But I noticed Joe’s eyes, wide-open, yet gloomy,
And said, “Sure, let’s go, Joe, and try out the new me.”
We entered a trailer, emblazoned, “The Sky King,”
Reached through back lots and after much hiking.
“Just speak,” said a voice. “What is to your liking?”
I admit, though I should’ve said, “an end to this ruse,”
Or a woman, or wheels, or a crack at big news,
I had no idea what I should choose.
Hare Gets Guidance
“Oh Sky King,” I said, “and I do not mock,
Seven-spice chicken would really rock.
You know, there used to be a chicken place on my block.”
A woman came in with a dish of mysteriousness
And asked, “Is this what you wish in all seriousness?”
“Okay, tell me,” I said, “what your theory is, Miss.”
“I believe,” she crooned, “that like a bolt from the blue
Fate comes in and rescues you.
If you wish to be a star, your dreams come true.”
Then a host spoke out, “Show me the money!”
A fake wall fell and the night got sunny.
“Welcome to the show that features a bunny!
“This is the premise: In our real-life cartoon
We’ll transform the most unlikely goon
Into a character over whom all will swoon.”
“Psst, Hare,” whispered the host, Donkey McClurks,
“When the cameras roll, do what works.
Be more than yourself. Exaggerate quirks.”
The Show Begins
In the opening segment, titled, “Pop Goes the Hare,”
I crossed my shanks and turned in my chair,
And bared my soul to the spotlight’s glare.
Yes, it was like the talks I give now,
Except then I was drunk with the feeling of “Wow!”
And now, what I wish to say is: “Ow.”
Wikipedia notes I was the “darling of crowds!”
I scared up invasions and scoffed at clouds.
I made true confessions and lifted up shrouds.
It was frightful and funny, and, above all, frightful.
Critics called my show insightful.
My downfall came when I became most prideful.
My fantasies were fruits on which factions fattened.
My style was so dope, I took out a patent.
Then, reality hit. My ratings flattened.
My network concocted a viral news contest
And invited dark knights and a faux Pocahontas,
And amateurs, and hamsters, and my own orthodontist!
I must say, the orthodontist I did not mind
For it was on me that his flashlight shined
When he said, “From Hare’s mouth, I can see his behind!”
People Going Ape
Some of my challengers made my teeth grind.
It‘s hard to believe in humankind
When people go ape over absence of mind.
My apologies to apes. I’ve known a few,
And I’ve never seen an ape go ape, except once on “The View,”
When an ape said, “I’m human,” and a human claimed, “Me, too.”
So, now let me tell you about a certain show
When a hamster was indeed the next chump to go
Up against me in a round of “‘T’ain’t So.”
The hamster, named Nettie, reported a puma
Who victimized starlets, according to rumor.
Networks went hot; and sour, my humor.
After a week of buzz about Nettie’s creep,
I awakened at 5, when most folks sleep,
And broadcast my message after a beep-beep-beep.
“Nettie Boles,” I red-baited, “has sold us lies.
In truth, she’s a temptress from a rat’s nest of spies
An unsheathed dagger lies behind her dark eyes.
“To learn more about ‘Nettie and the Rat Threat’
And how sex can be used for societal upset,
Go to my website at PopGoestheHare dot net.”
Hare Falls in Love
Nettie’s tales had scored big, but not as big as
My smears against her. Police news nabs
Nightly local views, but loses to paranoia’s pizzazz.
The next show, I repented. “Let me tell you,” I coughed,
“Something strange happened when I last signed off.
My mind had gone light as my heart had gone soft.
“Nettie’d swayed offstage with a ‘You first’ glide
And I saw something in her I’d previously not spied
And wondered what secrets she really did hide.
“She knew a truth about me. That was the snare.
And now, divesting myself of my market share,
I present: Declawed Fraud, formerly known as Hare.”
Hare’s Love Poem
Nettie’s shoulders spread wide as her mother’s had
Before death’s weight had laid her in her bed.
Now, Nettie mothers her brothers in her mother’s stead.
Nettie’s callouses show where she’d bled
Fingering guitars. Her palms bulge baking bread.
To the pillow of her paunch, I submit my bowed head.
But of all Nettie’s charms, the greatest of all
Is her ability to switch roles at a moment’s call,
Shed clothes, and recast the world with her foot-fall.
Hare Can’t Escape Show Biz
I thought I was going to turn a new leaf
And give up the job of a dignity thief.
But my ratings graph spiked, as did Nettie’s grief.
I tried being witless, rancid, perverse.
I shouted at flowers, I pimped my hearse.
I strangled, entangled in a dangling curse.
Nettie Saves the Day
One night, as my tears pooled into a puddle,
I asked my dear self, “Dear Self, what’ll
Become of you?”—and who came to clean my butt of scuttle,
But Nettie the hamster! She knows what’s true.
She’d seen through my guise and my eyes into
The me that I was when I’d noticed her, too.
Hare Visits Hamster Land
The cave was dark where the hamsters dwelled.
“Hello!—hello anybody!” I yelled.
A tear filled my eye from a sharpness I smelled.
Then I felt the embrace of a whole hamster nation.
I can’t describe to you the exhilaration
Of becoming the object of such adulation.
Did the hamsters know I’d pointed the finger
At their den of dissidents, and had been the bell-ringer
For a raid? I thought it best I not linger.
But then old Uncle Ham, with the droopy lip,
Pulled a squeeze bag from a belt on his hip
And held it up and said, “Son, have a drip!”
A Hamster Party
The whole crowd dipped into a swirling skip.
Blokes told jokes. But at the tip
Of my perception, I did detect a leaky ship.
“Hey, get a grip!” said a snatcher of my wrist,
“Did you hear the tale about the frog that got kissed?
He’s now on a royal sex offender list!”
After the Party
After the party, I met Net’s brother, Stu,
Who flicked a lighter, saying, “Here’s a clue
To the igniting we’re going to use you to do.
“First day in Hamstertown,” I wrote in my diary,
“I’ve adopted the slump of a has-been retiree.
Still, I’d kill for the thrill to turn dull to fiery.”
Next day, a newscast blared out at the club,
“Hare’s Defection Confirms Long Ties to the Scrub!”
I was accused of having used a worm’s way to rub.
But from TV’s long reach I was not yet released.
An agent had me cast in the role of a priest
In a reality show titled, “Flocks Being Fleeced.”
“Show me the bunny!” is what Ham liked to jest
Introducing me to a just-arrived guest.
“Behold the vestige of a non-virile pest.”
Saving My Reputation
Nettie stuck by me and kept me calm
By tracing a heart shape in my palm
When Chauncey, a cousin, dropped his bomb.
“Spawn!” Chauncey spat, and it gave me a fright,
Triggering my button of fight-or-flight.
But I filled my lungs, stood firm, and held tight.
“See here!” I said, as if Chauncey were Crow,
“There are some alleys down which I won’t go,
Though one can’t go lower than a reality show.
“But I’m not the enemy. The world’s out-of-joint.
My point has been that my points have no point.
If you seek pure evil, my sins disappoint.”
From a cushion set up in the pups’ play-space
I told children’s stories for twenty-five straight days.
Including the tale, “The Man with the Plate Face.”
Have you heard of my allegorical episode?
On The Day of No Dinner, Plate comes to a crossroad
And sees a nutcracker clacking madly in Morse code.
Tap-clap-clap, tap-clap, tap-tap, clap,
Which spells, “Wait!” Plate dismisses this claptrap,
Opens his backpack, and unfolds his map flap.
“I’ll tell you exactly where I intend to go,”
Plate blurts—“to Master’s Castle!” And having said so,
He pierces his future with the tip of his toe.
With Plate’s first step in the Land to the Left,
He discovers his side-bag has lost all its heft,
And knows, with that absence, he’s the victim of theft.
The Hand Rail
Reaching for support as his rubbery legs fail,
Plate grabs a tree limb hanging over the trail.
And detects in its bumps a message in braille.
“Keep heart,” the tree says, as it holds Plate’s grip.
“Ahead will be frights that will make your mind skip,
And moments as sweet as a dewdrop’s drip.”
Oh! What is that flash that Plate sees in the shade?
Is it light reflecting off a knife blade?
Yes, it’s John the Knife stepping into the glade.
“Hold off, Sir Knife!” Plate cries out in defense.
He’d heard of Knife’s flight from the Home of the Gents,
And read news that Knife nursed spiteful intents.
“People think,” Knife says, “I’m bad, but I ain’t.
I’ve been labeled a slasher. That’s my complaint.
I’m unfit for my work. Blood makes me faint!”
Plate says to Knife, “Knife, let’s make a deal.
We’ll walk to Lord’s Castle, and then we’ll both steal
Inside and stage an appeal at the Master’s next meal.”
In a dreamlike way, Plate’s cause will enfold
Not only Knife, but Spoon, Fork, and Bowl
In a plot to determine what fate dinner shall hold.
Day after day, I rolled out this cartoon.
Once, I Mother-Goosed it, and ran about with a spoon.
The pups squealed, “When’s the Meal?” Quoth I, “Eftsoon!”
But fate kept no date with Plate and his passel.
I never got to tell what befell at the Castle,
For I was summoned to the lord to whom I was vassal.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
“Hare!” Ham greeted me, hanging his phone up,
“Nettie vanished yesterday, and still hasn’t shown up!
I need you to switch your audience to grown-up.”
Nettie in trouble? My mind flashed forward fast.
Must I now break my vow to never again broadcast
News as I’d spewed in my now much-abhorred past?
Ham showed me a text that popped up on his cell.
No number was listed next to the bell,
But the text read: Don’t believe the lies they tell.
Thus, granted a license for verbal ruthlessness,
I hung out my plaque in the Kingdom of Truthlessness.
Now let the world feel the bite of toothlessness!
The hamster clan clamored in a state of upheaval.
Chauncey and Stu had gone off to fight evil,
And fell into a cult, and required retrieval.
Nettie’s descent had been a sisterly mission.
My course was similarly beyond question,
Though it skewed toward Stu’s conspiracy suggestion.
Like Plate and his crew, Chauncey and Stu
Had embarked on a path with no endgame in view.
But with these two, I promise you a follow-through.
Here’s what will come with the story’s renewal:
I’ll learn though Stu’s dangerous, he’s not a fool,
And I’m, apparently, a tool, and end up working for a ghoul.
What do ghouls represent? Why, the new story’s cast:
Demons with masks, saviors, critics, fixations,
And troubling figures from my undead past.
I ‘m wondering if I should wait, as the storyteller,
Until Part 3 to marry Nettie, my Dulcinella.
Hmm. Going underground now. Contact your bookseller.