The Secret of Spontaneous Combustion

The Secret of Spontaneous Combustion

“…and all that remained was a pile of ash, by a burnt pair of shoes on the ground…”

Young Sam was watching the news on TV,
“…man bursts into flames unexpectedly…”
the picture showed flames leap from his belly,
spontaneous combustion – on telly!

“And all that remained was a pile of ash,
by a burnt pair of shoes on the ground,
and a dangerous question we never should ask,
with an answer should never be found.”

That dangerous question nevertheless,
“Why do we spontaneously combust?”
Got Sam hard thinking to hazard a guess,
is it something we eat, do or touch?
something we drink?
something we think?
something we all can do?
something so magical,
something so tragical,
is it made-up or true?

The curious boy went and asked his Mum,
to see what she might know
but his Mum she shrugged, gave him a hug,
and told him to school he must go!

After school he went to the library,
with a great desire for more learning
but at six the librarian sent him home,
with his thirst for knowledge still burning.

Then heading back home, whilst removing  his tie,
a colourful poster caught his eye,
the fair was in town and it simply read,
‘Come to the fair, meet the Oracle – Fred’.

“The all-seeing Oracle, here, today?
“I’ll ask him…” thought Sam “…to hear what he’ll say.”

He found the tent with a sign on the door
Oracle one pound – please sit on the floor
He went in and sat – and saw Fred who said
“Ask your question mate – or I’m off back to bed!”

“They say you know everything, you’re the man,
So what I’d really like to know”, said Sam
“is how to spontaneously combust,
this pound will buy me the answer I trust?”

The oracle gave him an icy glare,
“you must think of a word with all your might,
…but… I will not try to… I do not dare…
in case I get it right!”

“You cheat!” said Sam, “What a swizz! You’re a fraud,
you don’t really know after all,
give back my money or I’ll tell my friends
how utterly useless you are!”

“Right” Fred said,  “I’ll tell you the word,
so you don’t have to come on so strong,
but what I say out loud, once it’s been heard,
means you won’t live to know it for long!”

“The word to think of …” – “Yes?” Said Sam…

The Oracle juddered, shivered, shuddered,
as smoke shot from his ears and nose,
and as flames consumed him he screamed and he quivered;
as Sam ran for his life (and a hose)…

And all that remained was a pile of ash,
by a burnt pair of shoes on the ground,
and a dangerous question we never should ask
with an answer should never be found.

“Now I’ll never know the secret word,”
whined Sam as he ran from the scene,
but two yards on he was stopped in his tracks,
by an ‘all questions answered’ machine

On Sam’s approach the machine gave a sigh,
a head turned to face him, eyes opened wide
“I dare you challenge me if you can,
just one pound to challenge the great Voltan”

Sam popped in a pound “Ok so my question’s,
the secret of spontaneous combustion…
I know there’s a word that I must say,
if you tell me ‘which’, that would make my day”.

The machine made a painful whirring sound,
but before it went up in flames
it printed a card (as it swallowed his pound)
with the word that no-one should name.

Excited, Sam, not believing his luck,
picked up the card and tried not to look
but he stole a glance, as it set a light,
though he couldn’t believe what he’d read was right…

Then all that was left was a pile of ash,
and his pair of shoes stuck in the ground
and a dangerous question we never should ask,
with an answer should never be found

And TV reported, “The news just in,
two found dead at the fair on the green,
victims of spontaneous combustion,
without a clue to the cause it would seem”

So all poets beware, to chance on this word
risks setting more than your prose a-light
and curious minds try not to find it,
there‘s a high price for getting it right!

Yapparister – June 2013


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

One thought on “The Secret of Spontaneous Combustion

  1. Ignorance is truly bliss. This was a rollicking fun poem/story! I know, horrible topic, but I love what you did with it. I took my own hard truths and put them on the beach with me in a poem…Visions On the Beach. More comforting, than rollicking, but I did have fun with it.
    Thank you,

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