How an Itch Saved the World

Heat rash inspired nonsense


It started on late Tuesday evening,
just as soon as I’d got in my sheets,
a niggly wiggly jiggly feeling,
more or less on the soles of my feet.

I did all I could do to get rid of it.
I started to fiddle and twitch
but that niggly wiggly jiggly thing
was a pestilent, permanent itch.

Just as soon as I thought that I’d got it,
it travelled all over my bed.
I lay still as a cod on a fishmonger’s tray
but that itch reappeared on my head.

So I sharpened my nails and I scraped it.
I tried all twenty fingers and toes
but that petulant, irritant, beggaring itch
appeared on the end of my nose.

‘Right then,’ I thought, ‘that does it,’
so I got up and thundered downstairs.
I found all the old brushes and scrubbers,
the ones with the bristliest hairs

I lay down on the scratchiest doormat
and I rubbed just as hard as I could,
till that maddening, wretched, unbearable itch
was totally gone for good.

Or so I thought.

I got up feeling tender and sorry,
my skin throbbed so much I could scream.
I was stinging and squealing and all I desired
was to lie in a bath of ice cream.

But then slowly and surely the voices began
not just one, but a dozen, then more,
then the lights in the flats all came on – sure enough,
that itch had moved in next door.

There was shouting and stamping and raging
as my neighbours ran into the street
in their nighties and jimjams they scratched and they cursed
but that itch had no thought of retreat.

It turned left at the end of The Avenue
and snuck into the Old People’s Home. Well.
The garden filled up with furious folk
flinging false teeth and scratching like hell.

Then that itch scuttled off to the crisp factory
where the night shift was just setting out.
I saw smoke blowing out of the high chimney stacks
and the Union boss starting to shout:

‘Listen up, we’re on strike as from now,’ he declared
‘If this itching don’t stop straight away.
My people can’t work if they’re scratching and stressed
– unless they get treble the pay.’

Then I turned on the news and the itch had gone south,
it had hopped on a truck to Calais
then it jumped on a wagon to Spain and beyond,
hitching over the Alps and away.

It turned up in a market in old Marrakesh
where it sent all the camels insane,
then in Canada, Russia, Iraq, Bangladesh,
Bolivia, Chad, The Ukraine.

That itch, oh that itch, it got under their skins
in the teepees, the igloos, the huts,
the babies cried ‘Yow!’ and the mothers cried ‘How
can we all be so itchy so much?’

Then the itch found a land, a cruel, bitter land
filled with fighting and terror and tears.
The air was alive with gunfire and bombs,
and the families were hiding in fear.

But the itch got to work, and in no time at all,
in the villages under attack,
that itch made the soldiers throw down all their guns –
they just had to start scratching their backs.

‘Ooh that’s lovely,’ said Joe as he sat in his tank,
‘Just a little bit higher – that’s it.’
And Mo the machine gunner pulled off his shirt:
‘Down a bit, harder, oohh great.’

Then the children crept out from under their beds
and they saw all the soldiers were giggling.
That itch had them rolling around on the ground
with their legs and their arms all a-wiggling.

Then the Generals, the Sergeants, the Captains, the Kings,
got a note from a Top Secret spy.
It said ‘Stuff all this fighting, it’s stupid and cruel.
What we need are back-scratching supplies.’

And so the itch travelled all over the world,
‘til no-one could fight any more.
All that scratching, it knew, was a good deal more fun,
and so very much safer, than war.

About sophiewellstood

Teacher and writer, sometimes the other way around. Some of my writing is traditionally published and in bookshops, as well as online. I've put some poems for younger people / lapsed adults here, and some proper swearing. I hope you enjoy.
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