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Five Pieces

by Jessy Randall

There was an old woman at Exeter who tried to keep everything for herself. Her greatest hope was to get on Hoarders and become famous. I’ll throw this stuff out as soon as I’m famous, she thought to herself. And she did. As soon as she became famous, which was never, she did.

Old Mother Shuttle lived in a coal scuttle. Every hour, she took a shower. But it didn’t matter, she just got fatter with many layers of coal dust, until she was just a mother whom no one could see.


Here comes the old woman from the wood. What canst thee do? Do anything! whereupon the old woman imitates some occupation in which an old woman might engage, such as sewing, sweeping, cunnilingus, knitting, digging a garden, fixing the toilet, chopping wood, kneading bread, spanking someone, using a computer, stirring cake, washing, ironing, etc., whereupon the opponent tries to guess from the pantomime the occupation indicated. The winner is the one who makes the old woman cry or laugh the soonest. The old woman cannot herself win.


Old Mother Niddity Nod swore by the pudding-bag, and the invective that came out of her mouth would have knocked over a horse, a deaf horse, a herd of deaf horses, it was all mother-fuck and cock-sucker that, with hyphens, because it was the olden days and swearing was only for men and mostly consisted of things like “gol durn it.” Gol durn it, this pudding-bag's empty and I wanted some mother-fucking pudding, for example.


Old Nancy Netty Cote with a white petticoat has no appendages and dwindles with age. She melts like a witch, gives light in the pitch, and is made of silence and rage.

Author's Note

Because I work in a library, I have access to a number of odd books. The lines in bold in these prose poems are taken from various editions of Mother Goose rhymes, mostly from the early 20th century.

Jessy Randall's poems, poetry comics, and other things have appeared in Asimov's, McSweeney's, and West Wind. She is a librarian at Colorado College. Find her online here:

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