More than 30 years ago now, I was thinking about the nursery rhyme, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” when a variation of the opening lines went through my head: “Sing a song of sickness / a pocketful of why”. The philosophic overtones of this variant juxtaposed with the sing-song feel of the nursery rhyme intrigued me. Over the years, it popped into my head many times, and I thought about writing an entire poem based on the nursery rhyme. But for whatever reason I never got past the first two lines.
Last year, all that changed. As I was working on poems for my second book, Event Horizon, I decided to give “Sing a Song of Sickness” another go. It came together, and I included it in my book. Given that we were in the midst of the COVID pandemic, this poem was also more relevant than ever. Timing is everything, as they say.
My intent in the rest of the poem was to continue the philosophic musings of the first lines. I also wanted to mimic the original nursery rhyme as much as possible, and I think I did pretty well using similar sounding phrases and rhymes. Below is “Sing a Song of Sickness” with the original rhyme next to it for reference.