Poetry For Kids

Hello and welcome to a page of poetry written for younger readers. If you are a child, parent, teacher, or simply someone who enjoys children's poetry, I would really like to know what you think of these poems - any feedback would be very welcome. If you have any comments please get in touch via the contact page - use the 'contact' button on the main menu - and I will respond to all messages left.



FITTING IN

Once upon a time there were three brothers —
Slim and Dim and Grim
each one different from all others —
a bit strange in mind and limb.

Slim was very tall and bony
Dim was short and fat
Grim was inbetween and only
rarely glad of that.

Their parents had a job to keep them
such varied shapes were they —
three odd-sized beds in which to sleep them
grown more awkward night or day.

Slim was almost eight feet high
Dim stood dwarfish-squat
while Grim inched slowly by and by —
seeming loathe to eat a lot.

They ran away — Slim, Dim and Grim —
drawn by bright lights and fame.
A touring circus took them in
gave them each a starry name.

Now known as Buck and Chuck and Huck
they joined the troupe as clowns
squirted water from a truck
paraded through small towns.

No longer freaks but circus folk
they fitted in at last
and from that day they seldom spoke
a word about their past.

A new beginning for the bros
named Buck and Chuck and Huck —
performing like three seasoned pros
astounded by their luck.

The audience laps up their act
and clearly they belong
in showbiz — happy with the fact
clowns can’t put a foot wrong.

ALICE GIVES THE CROCODILE ADVICE

“Oh, do not weep, dear crocodile
for love doomed not to last
and dry your tears, wipe down your scales
don’t grieve for times now past.

You may not be the prettiest
nor be described as ‘cute’
your eyes are not the dreamiest
your skin’s an armoured suit.

And all those teeth are frightening —
you lunge and snap your jaws
so nobody would ever guess
your sorrow and its cause.

You might do well to meditate
and change how you behave —
your nature’s much too fearsome, dear
to get the love you crave.

So dry your eyes, sad crocodile
while truth often offends
accept those creatures most adored
don’t eat their veggie friends!”

SIZE-WISE

The elephant thought he was too big
built way too large by half
so he tried to hide his portly sides
with a pink and purple scarf.

He wore a matching knitted hat
and boots with dainty bows
that so disguised his massive thighs
he was rather pleased with those.

Then, strolling by the sea one day
he met a beached blue whale
who said “Oh dear, it’s all too clear
your scheme’s to no avail.

“In fact, it draws attention to
your true rotundity.
But cast your eyes on my great size
you’re small compared with me!”

The elephant considered this
the hat (perhaps) he’d keep
and, though they’d laugh, the boots and scarf
he’d give back to the sheep.

And ever since, he’s grown content
to live in his own skin.
For there’s no rule for large or small
variety’s the thing.

OUR SETTEE HAS TEETH

Our settee has teeth —
I know it does
because I’ve felt their sharp row behind
the lolling cushions
creased and crumbed
ingesting all there is to find.

A wealth of things
slide down the back
the settee swallows — bite by bite
coins and earrings
buttons ... crisps ...
a strange, unfussy appetite.

It’s old and sagging —
losing shape
those wrinkled covers half unzipped
the frame groans low
complains a lot
upholstery sinks and gapes loose-lipped.

And what’s been lost
down that dark crack —
a brooch, a cufflink or gold pen
might never in
the settee’s life
ever see the light of day again.

For anyone
who’s ever tried
retrieving stuff — so slides their hand
to grope about
completely blind
in that deep belly understands

the beast’s reluctant
to let go
years’ worth of treasure trapped beneath
it’s keen to keep it
and that’s why
our settee’s grown a set of teeth

to nip at fingers
meddling
in spaces best left well alone —
dimensions odd
and hardly-known —
the sofa’s hidden twilight zone.

JUST ONE THING

I’m hardly scared of anything —
there’s not much makes me shiver
I’ll sit through horror films without
a tremble — not one quiver.

I don’t believe a bogey man
lives underneath my bed
and crawly things don’t bother me
like spiders in the shed.

I’m not afraid of strange old men
who hang around the park
and I’ll walk down the lane alone
unspooked by wind or dark.

And water doesn’t worry me
I’m quite okay with heights
just one thing scares my socks off —
I just can’t stand stormy nights!

At the first low growl of thunder
I shake like I’m a jelly
there’s nothing I have read or seen
in films or on the tele

that terrifies me half as much
as that angry bang and crashing
like all the ancient gods are drunk
and their dinner plates are smashing.

Then the lightning crackles fierce
like an electric cable
and I crawl underneath the nearest
sturdy chair or table.

I hide my eyes and block my ears
until the storm’s moved on
and all those frightening noises have
been blown away — all gone.

Then I creep out and calmly swear
that I’ll be brave next time
(Oh cross my heart and hope to die
the weather might stay fine!)

WONDERING

I’m wondering, I’m wondering
what makes the sunset red?
And why in some far distant lands
poor children die unfed?

What is it that’s so different
for them and not for me?
I’ve always got enough to eat
for breakfast, dinner, tea.

I’m wondering, I’m wondering
don’t their mums shop and cook
meat pies along with vegetables
like in a recipe book?

Why don’t their fathers dig and sow
like my dad does? — It’s great!
The things he grows so green and fresh
all end up on my plate.

I’m wondering, I’m wondering —
is it because of war
that things have changed in foreign lands?
They were better off before

long years of fighting that destroyed
their homes to dust and mud.
Perhaps that’s why the sunset’s red —
it’s stained with all that blood.

FINDING A RHYME

Are there any poems in the house?
Are they hiding somewhere safe and warm?
Are some ancient verses out of breath
waiting for a new rhyme to be born?

I found a couplet lying in a kitchen drawer
plus a limerick tucked under Grandad’s hat
a lullaby asleep upon a shelf
and a sonnet snuggled up beside the cat.

There’s someone leaving teasing trails of words
on scraps of paper — scribbled in green ink
like clues to where some masterpiece might be
lurking close —but where, I cannot think.

There’s got to be some poems in the house.
They’re often hard to catch — as quick as mice
they disappear unless you grab their tails —
recite at once, or maybe say them twice.

Just to be sure, commit to memory
those verses that are easy on the ear.
Please thank the author (if it’s not ANON)
and tell your friends you found this poem here.

THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A BOOKWORM

There is much pleasure to be found
in having piles of books around
each one a country where, as guest
you’re welcomed in to take a rest.

You can escape to some far land
imagined, and go hand in hand
with characters you’re thrilled to share
adventures with while you are there.

Though all good stories surely end
and you’ll be sad to leave each friend
you’ve made, it’s up to you just when
you choose to read that book again.

They’re always there upon the shelf
a marvellous way to cheer yourself
for on any dim or dismal day
a book will take you miles away.

And when you’re sick and stuck in bed
(you have to stay there, Mother said)
a book will help to pass the time
until you’re better — feeling fine.

For there is comfort to be found
in having favourite things around.
With books you never feel alone
so value every one you own.

A CHILD’S FIRST EXPERIENCE OF GARDENING

I had a little garden plot
I used to weed and dig.
I’d sow a mix of tiny seeds
in hope they would grow big.

I planted carrots, runner beans
and marigolds as well.
The lupins popped up on their own
as far as I could tell.

For some things didn’t want to grow
while others romped away
so which were planted, which pushed in
was really hard to say.

My garden grew a little wild
although I tried my best
blackfly got my runner beans
and slugs became a pest.

Blue tits ruined my sweet peas
they pecked off all the flowers.
I almost cried remembering
my patient, wasted hours.

It seemed that I could never win
I watched my efforts fail
I’d lose the fight to who-knows-what? —
some hungry bird or snail.

The caterpillars had their way —
there were more holes than leaf
earwigs, too, and worms like wire
all used their hungry teeth.

So I gave up on real plants and
chose plastic ones instead
for nothing nibbled at their leaves
or left them almost dead.

But plastic flowers lose their charm
they always look the same
in sun or snow or any time
of year you care to name.

And it wasn’t long before the weeds
snuck back and claimed it all —
bold buttercups and dandelions
grew quickly rather tall.

In just a few fine summer weeks
they overwhelmed with ease
the sad and fading plastic ones —
fake roses and sweet peas.

Nature stole my garden plot
which really worked out fine
for clearly she knew ways to keep
those pesky bugs in line!

TO ALL WEARERS OF STRIPED PYJAMAS — A WARNING

A wolf in striped pyjamas
came creeping through the night
(and a wolf in striped pyjamas
is a most unusual sight).

He wandered through the sleeping streets
he mooched around the town
and trotting after came a boar
in a frilly pink nightgown.

They were not friends, nor were they foes
and why they were disguised
was really quite a mystery
as neither seemed surprised

when turning on a corner
the wolf called to the boar
“I know your face, I am convinced
we’ve met somewhere before.”

The boar gave him a funny smile
and showed his tusks and teeth.
The wolf drew back a pace or two
unsure what lay beneath

those flowery yards of winceyette
that hid Boar’s birthday suit
although, on balance, the wolf thought
he did look kind of cute!

“It would,” the boar said, finally
“be best of we forget
that you’ve seen me and I’ve seen you
or that we’ve ever met.

Just think of all the gossip
if our families found out
for not one of them would understand
what dressing-up’s about!”

The wolf in his pyjamas
nodded sadly and agreed
the embarrassment would make his life
so very hard indeed.

“Of course you’re right,” he murmured
(how yellow his eyes shone!)
“but I wonder, as a favour —
could I try your nightgown on?”

“Oh, if you must!” Boar struggled
(he’d no fingers and no toes)
with his four big clumsy trotters
to undo the ribbon bows.

But at last the boar stood naked
very hairy, looking shy
while he shivered, now quite anxious
and let out a worried sigh.

The wolf grabbed up the dainty gown
and raced off very quick
pleased as punch that he’d pulled off
a rather shabby trick.

Shocked, the boar stood all forlorn
alone in his distress
and wishing he’d not trusted Wolf
with his cherished pink nightdress.

He never saw the wolf again
although he found a sheep
who wore a feather hat and begged
he would, her secret, keep.

He searched the wood, he tried the zoo
he asked both lions and llamas
but Wolf had vanished in thin air
complete with striped pyjamas.

Meanwhile, if you should meet that boar
it’s likely he’ll be cross
and completely unconsolable
concerning his sad loss.

Though he sometimes sports a negligée
in flimsy pastel green
(his second-best night time attire
from Porkers magazine)

he’ll never rest until he gets
his favourite nightgown back
so ’til that day he stalks the streets
in hope, at last, he’ll track

that wily, mean and selfish wolf
to France or the Bahamas
sneak up, and then deprive him of
those ghastly striped pyjamas!

So do beware, on holiday
of walking in the wood
in a pair of striped pyjamas
or the outcome won’t be good

if that angry boar should spot you
(and his eyesight’s rather dim)
he might easily mistake you
for the wolf that cheated him.

And that boar, when he is furious
will put up a fierce fight
and he’ll push and shove and wrestle
with all his grunty might

to get those striped pyjamas
avenge himself at last
for all the grief wolf put him through
since that black night long-past.

No, never wear pyjamas
outside when it’s grown late
especially the stripey sort
don’t trust to luck or fate.

Keep all nightwear in a drawer
if possible, with locks
for shorts and t-shirts are at risk
as well as fluffy socks.

The wolf is always on the prowl
he takes what he can get
and when his PJs start to thin
he steals another set.

Avoid the wolf, stay clear of Boar
however polite they chat
and if, perchance, you meet a sheep
do hang on to your hat!

THE EASTER BIRD

The Easter Bird sings in the tree
outside my window, joyfully
he trills and warbles sweet and true
notes that drift into the blue.

He tells a story, old and rare
of April gardens winter-bare
their trees and bushes without leaf
no sign of new green shoots beneath

the barren soil so dry and grey
where windblown seeds’ late promise lay.
The days were dull, the nights were chill
and nothing changed — dark Earth stood still...

But then a miracle occurred —
a visitor — a migrant bird
broke the spell with his bright song
and soon there gathered a whole throng

of feathered heralds in each tree
who charged the air ecstatically
and drew soft rain down from a cloud.
It seemed all Nature sighed aloud

as buds unfurled and Mother Earth
made fertile now, gave flowers birth.
Spring’s colours bloomed, spread gentle cheer
and banished Winter from the year.

From that year on the Easter Bird
in woods and city parks is heard.
His magic song’s so pure and keen
that Spring explodes in shades of green.

THE YOUNG MOUNTAIN STREAM

Through a crack in the rock
like a burst of bright laughter
the stream it comes tumbling
in bubbles and spray
from the depths of the mountain
it flings up its silver
and eager to travel
it speeds on its way

Down steep granite slopes
to the green of the foothills
it carves a smooth channel
while gurgling along
and the voice of the water
is gently relaxing
so full of life’s promise
those ripples of song.

Through meadows and forests
where trees lean right over
to drop the odd leaf
in the fast-flowing flood
and grass springing lush
in the spray of its passing
grows juicy for cattle
who chew its sweet cud.

Away across fields
winds its sparkling ribbon
past village and farm
and a dreamer who leans
on a small wooden bridge
gazing into the water
to spot basking fish
in the sun’s slanting beams.

Onwards and onwards
to meet with the river
the little stream anxious
impatient to know
where its destiny lay
seeming keen on adventure
all passengers carried
along with the flow.

The river much broader
and colder and older
absorbs the small stream
in its murky brown length
and chivvies it swiftly
through hills, over borders
its sing-song much deeper
to match its great strength.

At last a great city
the river’s grown busy
with boats and the poison
of rubbish thrown in
it now sings a dirge
full of sorrow and pity
reflecting tall buildings
so hopelessly grim.

All ends with the sea
the long waves of the Channel
washing the coastline
its rhythms sublime
both the stream and the river
drown quietly together
submerged in its currents
for this and all time.

The sea rolls its tunes
like a huge barrel organ
they change with the tides
and the opal moon’s dream
and sometimes you’ll hear
in the pebbles’ soft chorus
the soft laughing notes
of the young mountain stream.

THE RARE BOOKWORM

The bookworm’s an elusive chap
he’s quiet and rather shy
he creeps around in libraries
where there’s a good supply

of books to please all types of worm
whatever suits their whim
with new arrivals on the shelf
to borrow, browse or skim.

The real bookworm is kind of rare
and most will not admit
it’s because they spend their time indoors
they’re pale and quite unfit.

For it goes with being bookish
that they have no taste for sports
so they hide away on rainy days
(they’ve ‘lost’ their football shorts).

But if you know a ‘proper’ bookworm
when the homework’s looking tough
then he’s the one to talk to
because he knows a lot of stuff.

He’s a whizz at General Knowledge
(though he’s never scored a goal)
and when it comes to passing his exams
he beats the others whole.

Though he might seem kind of geeky
he’s a really useful friend
but if he’s reading don’t disturb him
‘til he’s got right to ‘The End’.

THE OLD NURSERY

They painted the walls
sunny daffodil yellow
a light cheerful room
to welcome a fellow.

He carved a warm cradle
from sweet-smelling pine.
She knitted blue blankets
the wool soft and fine.

There were toys — many toys
some were old and some new
arranged along shelves
in an orderly queue

where they waited so patient
for him to arrive
the child who would play there
be happy and thrive.

But the castle grew cobwebbed
and greyed under dust
the tin soldiers in rows
all fell victim to rust.

The walls slowly faded
bleached pale by the sun
the cradle stayed empty
no rejoicing was done.

And the door of the nursery
stayed locked — undisturbed
the room kept its silence
not one cry was heard.

The couple, once hopeful
resigned to grow old
and childless they died
then the sad house was sold

to a family — growing
two children and more
on the way, so knew well
what a nursery was for.

The room that had waited
so many long years
was at last blessed with babies
and laughter and tears.

Repainted and papered
in pastel designs
from picture-book stories
and old nursery rhymes.

The walls matched the curtains
the bedding and rug.
It all looked so cosy
inviting and snug.

So the house became happy
for there at its heart
the magic of childhood
spelled out a fresh start.

THE ONE IN THE MIDDLE

I’m the quiet one in the middle
my brother is older than me
and my sister is five years younger
her birthday is soon — she’ll be three.

My brother is almost eleven
he’s clever and taller than me
I’m the quiet one in the middle
and I’m growing less noticeably.

Little sister gets all the attention
when visitors call at our home
while I’m just the one in the middle
caught in the invisible zone.

My brother is close to my sister
he sits with her perched on his knee
oh, why was I born in the middle?
it’s the absolute worst place to be!

I’m neither the eldest or youngest
and therefore I’m easily missed —
the quiet one stuck in the middle
not sure if I even exist.

YOU’LL FEEL BETTER BY THE MORNING

When you’d just fallen down the stairs
and banged and bruised your head
it really hurt and throbbed a lot
your face all hot and red
you’d cried a bit and made a fuss
they’d packed you off to bed
with “You’ll feel better by the morning”
that was what they always said.

And when you’d had a fight and shoved
the geeky kid next door
then he’d shoved back and that was how
your new school shirt got tore
you’d panicked when he’d threatened that
his dad would fetch the law
so you’d gone to bed and hoped things would
get better. Like before.

But morning came and you’d felt bad
and really cheated, too
the charm of sleep had worn right off
not much else you could do
than take your share of blame despite
they’d think the worst of you.
By then you’d learnt some things they say
quite often just aren’t true.

THE WORST BOY IN THE SCHOOL

There’s always one kid in the classroom
who has this extraordinary flair
for getting in all kinds of trouble
and driving Miss close to despair.

In our class that one kid was Stuart
a boy who stood out on his own
as the source of such frequent disruption
he was horribly accident-prone.

He didn’t set out to be naughty
it seemed trouble just tagged along
for wherever he went, it went with him
so somehow things always went wrong.

It was how fragile objects got broken
and anything liquid got spilt
pens leaked over text books and clothing
while flowers (and teachers) would wilt.

Our lessons could never be boring
for all the time Stuart was there
we waited for something to happen
like when he got glue on his hair.

But the best day that we all remember
(and the one that brought Stuart most fame)
began almost like any other
although afterwards things weren’t the same.

We were learning about the Egyptians
when Stuart, whose mind was elsewhere
decided to try sitting backwards
and got his arm stuck in his chair.

Now our teacher, Miss Jones, couldn’t shift it
she gave up and sent for the Head
who twisted and tugged at poor Stuart
then phoned for the firemen instead.

They came in a shiny red engine
and parked in our playground. We gazed
as they sized up the whole situation
while Stuart looked on faintly dazed.

Not one could work out how he’d done it
his arm was so thoroughly caught
they manoeuvred it this way and that way
’til Stuart got quite overwrought.

In the end it seemed they had no option
but to saw through the back of the chair
and Stuart looked quite apprehensive
even though they took obvious care.

At last he was free and we wondered
if his parents might pay for the chair
but returning to school after Easter
we found Stuart was no longer there.

His mum and his dad and his grandpa
thought Stuart could do with a move
and that maybe he’d settle down better
at a school on the outskirts of Hove.

The kids in our class talked it over
and considered it rather unfair
to put all the blame on poor Stuart
when it might be the fault of the chair.

It just wasn’t the same without Stuart
(although Miss might have sighed with relief)
every lesson seemed dull and much longer
we all missed him a bit — underneath.

OUR BIT OF WASTELAND

Just a ragged scrap of land all gone to weeds —
a bumpy home to thistles thick with seeds
and grasshoppers who jumped along with us
the wrecks of prams and bikes left out to rust.

It was the corner of our street, this bit of waste
where we would play and our small gang was based.
We had a fort — imagined — on a rise
walled in with nettles grown to giant size

the grass around it flattened to a plain
where the Indians attacked our wagon train.
Or sometimes we stalked lions and tigers through
the jungle grasses, crawling two by two.

What were we — six or seven ? when they came
those suits that called us over, made it plain
that we must leave — not play there any more
and after that it wasn’t long before

the work began. They cleared along one edge
grubbed up the rubble, bulldozed down the hedge
they slashed and tore and tugged ’til all was gone
not one green leaf survived — the men had won.

They built a block of ugly red-brick flats
no gardens though — not room enough for that
and we had a green with swings two streets away
which adults said was the best place for play.

If they’d have listened, we’d have told them this —
these small rough wastelands are the wilds we miss.
Bright sterile playgrounds can’t compete the same.
They’re boring by comparison — too tame.

Kids need to let imagination run ...
for invention’s the essential part of fun
and in Nature there is no such thing as waste
but purpose found for every inch of space.

HOUSE RABBIT

You sit so small and grey and neat
upon the rug and wash your feet
and seem content with a quiet life
that has few wants, no fears or strife.

I sit and write, you lie and doze
at times I wonder just what goes
by way of dreams through your small brain
but do all bunnies dream the same?

The moment that your eyes are closed
you start to twitch your ears and toes.
Do you imaging grass and sky —
a meadow with a stream close by?

And can you feel the warmth of sun
that makes you want to jump and run?
For if you do, how can that be
when you’ve lived all your life with me?

You are a pet within our home
and life outside you’ve never known
yet I suspect you dream the same
as all your brothers, wild or tame.

OUTGROWING SANTA

I don’t believe in Santa Claus
I’m way too old and wise
that tall,unlikely tale belongs
to those who fantasize

some fat old man in a red suit
aboard a loaded sleigh
drawn by flying reindeer brings
the gifts for Christmas Day.

No, I gave up being fanciful
at least by eight or nine
and got my presents just the same
so that still worked out fine.

Except it wasn’t quite the same
but I couldn’t pinpoint what
felt different about Christmas
and it bothered me a lot

for the magic part was over —
I’d lost the “let’s pretend”
and so the spell was broken
as the dream came to an end.

I’m old now, and much wiser
and it’s make-believe, I know
but round about December
should there be a fall of snow

and it happens to be Christmas Eve
I might, on impulse, stare
out into the bright starlit sky
to see who’s flying there...

Oh, I don’t believe in Santa Claus
I’ve said so all along
except there’s a small part of me
who so hopes I’m proved wrong!

THE RESCUE

I rescued a brown beetle-bug today
from a rain puddle where the creature lay
quite forlorn and still and nearly dead
and as I fished him out he kicked one leg

as though to thank me for my kindly act.
I watched him as he slowly struggled back
to life again. I put him on a leaf
most likely shocked and dizzy with relief

he wobbled slightly as he tried to crawl
along a stem, then found the nearby wall
hugged warm brick until completely dry
then opened up his crumpled wings to fly.

A happy end to a near-fatal dip
(maybe he’d only meant to take a sip
but fallen in) to help him on his way
made me feel glad — my good deed for the day.

UNCLE ERIC

I remember Uncle Eric —
I don’t believe what people say —
I’ve never understood the reason
why they had him locked away.

He was kind of shy and quiet
but he was okay with me.
Someone said he wasn’t ‘normal’.
They must remember differently.

At first I asked a lot of questions
that no one answered properly.
They changed the subject, looked embarrassed
or told some feeble fib to me.

He wasn’t in another country.
He hadn’t gone on holiday.
He would, I’m sure, have sent a postcard.
I don’t believe a word they say.

I’ve heard them whisper things about him
when they think I’m in my room.
They call him ‘touched’ or ‘simple-minded’ —
words that label — seal his doom.

But Uncle Eric wasn’t ‘crazy’
he was simply shy and sad
that no one else would take the trouble
to understand he wasn’t mad!

GROWN-UP TALK

I’m not supposed to listen —
I know eavesdropping’s wrong
but there’s something awful happening.
I’ve felt it all along.

I can’t not hear their voices —
they’re loud. They almost shout.
It sounds just like an argument
but I can’t quite make it out.

So I creep along the hallway
and sit on the top stair
trying hard to hear what’s said —
stay still and silent there.

They don’t know I’m earwigging
or they wouldn’t yell and curse —
use words I’ve never heard them say
like on TV. But worse.

I think I hear Mum crying.
I shiver and feel sad.
While dad goes ranting on and on ...
His temper’s really bad.

I know that by the morning
things will have calmed right down
and they’ll behave like normal —
false smiles to hide the frown.

They don’t fool me. I listen
to all their grown-up ‘talk’
not caring much who is to blame
or which of them’s at fault.

All I know is something’s wrong
it’s plain as plain could be.
So I’ve no choice but eavesdrop
because no one talks to me!

HAPPY EVER AFTER

I’ve only got one mother
but two dads, and what is more
I’ve a sister and a brother
that I didn’t have before.

It can take some time explaining
when my friends come round to tea
so I make it clear by naming
our extended family.

I tell them how it started
with my real dad and and my mum
then, sadly, how they parted.
(The divorce wasn’t much fun.)

Then Mother met dad number two.
At first I wasn’t sure
if I liked him, but I knew
I had to act mature.

And he turned out to be okay —
a caring sort of guy.
As weeks went by, I have to say
we bonded — him and I.

I call him ‘Dad’. No fights or fuss
when his two children come
to spend their holdays with us.
We really do get on.

And my old dad has a new wife —
he’s happy and content.
We’ve each got a different life.
It’s strange the way things went ...

It was hard in the beginning
but it’s brilliant we’re all friends
for now everyone is winning
which is how our story ends.

BEST FRIENDS

My best friend’s not my best friend any more
’cos we fell out and I don’t know the reason for
the way she scowls, determined to ignore
my notes. She throws them on the classroom floor.

I’ve tried to say how sorry that I am
and apologized the best way that I can
but she just turns her head and chats to Sam
and neither care how miserable I am.

I’m not a jealous person. No — I’m not.
She says I’m too possessive — which is rot!
But she’s the only best friend that I’ve got.
I think it’s down to Sam — his nasty plot.

My best friend’s been my best friend for two years.
We’ve had our share of fights and shed some tears
but we’ve stayed friends. Then horrid Sam appears
to break us up. He always interferes ...

He isn’t nice but it could take a while
for my best friend to see he’s really vile
and know that I’m her best friend by a mile.
So I’ll be patient — bide my time and smile.

THE UNFRIENDLIES

I talked to spiders all the time
when I was just a kid
but when I tried to pick them up
they scuttled off and hid.

I chased after bright butterflies
across the fields in fun.
It seemed they didn’t want to play —
I failed to bond with one.

I kept a beetle in a box
Three earwigs in a jar.
One by one they all escaped —
lived out their lives afar.

The caterpillars and odd grubs
weren’t happy being pets.
There wasn’t time before they died
to take them to the vets.

For various assorted bugs
the story was the same.
They wouldn’t listen when I tried
to carefully explain —

I didn’t want to hurt a hair
in any insect’s head ...
Sometimes I’d hardly said the words
when one of them fell dead.

But in the end I understood
the message death would send:
Not one wanted to live with me
or even be my friend.

HOW (AND WHERE) I’VE BEEN

I’ve    not been good
         not been bad.
         not been happy
         not been sad.

I’ve    not been thoughtful
         not been mean.
         not been grubby
         not been clean.

I’ve    not been noisy
         not been quiet.
         not been causing
         fuss or riot.

I’ve    not been clever
         not been dim
         not been doing
         anything.

But    night is done
         and dreams won’t keep.
         I can’t deny —
         I’ve been asleep.

OPENING SCENE FROM A HORROR MOVIE

The sky has turned deep purple-black.
A tree stands white as bone.
The air hangs still — the wind’s grown slack.
It’s like the twilight zone.

On a branch an old nest sits
abandoned by the crow.
One heavy cloud sinks low and spits
a sleety gob of snow.

A long way off, a mountain bare
a castle at its foot
that looks like no one’s living there —
its ruins black as soot.

Stretched wide between, the boggy moor
lies empty, bleak and grey.
All those who dwelt there years before
long-dead or gone away.

Wet, lazy flakes of snow drift down.
The landscape seems asleep
for nothing moves or makes a sound.
The long, cold shadows creep ...

Then, in the dusk, thin broken strings
of small dark creatures fly —
Bats! — with leathery soft wings
come slowly flapping by.

The audience are all agog.
They bite their lips and wait.
A deathwatch beetle in a log
ticks loud the hero’s fate.

The vampire rises from his tomb —
the chills have just begun.
His eyes gleam redly through the gloom ...

(From behind the sofa)
                                Aren’t horror movies fun !

THE FACTS OF LIFE

I’ve flicked through Dad’s old magazines
I’ve read Mum’s novels, too.
I know which DVDs they watch
and some of what they do.

I know ‘The Facts’ but don’t let on —
they think I’m ‘innocent’.
I’d never dare to tell them both
how long ago that went!

I won’t upset their quaint ideas —
those fond out-dated dreams
although it’s kind of boring now —
more trying than it seems

to keep on pussyfooting round
and playing ‘let’s pretend’.
I can’t believe they haven’t guessed
I’d find out in the end.

I know where babies come from
(not gooseberry bush or stork).
It’s up to me to tell them —so
high time we had that talk.

HAIR TODAY, GONE ...

My Great-Gran never had a bad hair day
for Great-Gran (bless her bunions) was bald.
She’d two wigs — one was frizzed like an Afro.
I’m not sure what the pink one was called.

She had always been hot on appearance.
Quite eccentric but stylishly dressed
so the day that her two wigs got stolen
left her frantic, distraught and depressed.

She refused to go out — wouldn’t see us.
Nobody could get past her door
so I snuck down the path and I listened
as she grizzled and ranted and swore.

I could understand why she was fretting
for those wigs were uncommonly rare
but I think she mistook admiration
when most people stopped dead just to stare.

But it would have been horrid to say so
so we all went along with her pride.
(Although it was mentioned in private
in public we all took her side).

Mother called an emergency meeting
where we all were encouraged to dig
deep into our purses and pockets
to buy poor Great-Gran a new wig.

Well, it took a great deal of persuading
to get her to leave her small flat
disguised behind Mother’s dark glasses
and wearing Dad’s gardening hat.

The wig-maker greeted her warmly
and measured her head without fuss
said the shape of her skull was quite perfect
and I’m sure I saw Great-Granma blush.

It was certain they took to each other
the new wig Great-Gran chose was bright red.
It was backcombed — a regular beehive
that she wore on the day they were wed.

Great-Gran lived to be over a hundred.
She was buried with all of her hair.
There were fifty-four wigs in her coffin —
one-a-week plus two more labelled ‘spare’.

CRASHERBASH

A monster called old Crasherbash
lives in the flat below —
a specialist in making noise
he fills the silence so

that every sound comes through the walls
and rumbles floor to floor.
He cannot bear the peace and quiet —
he must slam every door.

He’s not a bit considerate
but bangs about all day
and never thinks that what he does
disturbs in any way.

He goes on thundering about —
his boots are made of lead —
thumping round from room to room
enough to wake the dead.

He plays his music way too loud
it makes the building shake
and neighbours come and neighbours go —
it’s more than some can take.

This ‘monster’ we call Crasherbash
is one sad human being
and such an antisocial type
that no one’s disagreeing

it’s time to sort the problem out
restore the status quo
we’ve put up with him far too long —
old Crasherbash must go!

NOW YOU SEE ME...

There’s a wizard at work in our classroom
(though not Harry Potter, for sure).
There’s a strange-smelling smoke hanging thickly
and an odd kind of smudge on the floor.

For it seems that our teacher has vanished
with a bang and a burst of blue flames
and everyone’s sitting here baffled
but no one will name any names.

Now most of us like Mister Wilson
he isn’t a bad sort of chap
and okay for a chemistry teacher
so it seems an unlucky mishap.

We’ve been waiting for almost five minutes
hoping he might reappear
for someone is bound to ask questions
the moment they see he’s not here.

If this is a spell by some wizard
we’re hoping it soon comes unstuck
for it’s hard to believe Mister Wilson
might have carelessly blown himself up.

Then suddenly, from out the cupboard
with a swirl of his star-spangled cloak
steps the magically-trained Mister Wilson
really chuffed with his practical joke!

PLAYING TRUANT

Young Bobby heard a small voice say
‘Psst! — Don’t go to school today.
Skip off. You’d really rather play.
Listen — there’s an easy way...’

Then Mister No-one whispered ‘Quick! —
Just tell your mum you’re feeling sick’.
Though Bobby’s conscience gave a kick
he made his mind up in the nick

of time. He acted straight away —
‘Oh, Mum — I’m not too well today.
At home in bed I’d better stay...’
She shook her head to his dismay

and answered “No, you’re looking fit —
I don’t believe a word of it!
You’ve games today — here, take your kit.
You can’t fool me — not one small bit!’

So Bobby hung his head and took
his games kit and his homework book
dejectedly, and thus forsook
his plan, and throwing a black look

he shut the door with a ‘Goodbye, —
no matter then, that I could die
of something horrid!’ Pause — a sigh
but silence followed. No reply.

‘I guess I’m done for’ Bobby said
‘I’d so much rather be in bed
resting my poor aching head.
I’m stuck with awful Games instead!’

And quite forgetting that he’d lied
he rolled about the ground and cried
his eyes tight shut, his mouth so wide
that onlookers could see inside.

A passing teacher peered and said
‘I must admit his throat looks red.
If it’s infection, it might spread.
I think we’ll send him home to bed.’

Back to his house they hustled quick
and told his mum ‘This boy is sick —
his tonsils are as red as brick!’
She checked to see it was no trick.

So, tucked into his bed at last
the threat of Games now safely past
smug Bobby seemed to rally fast.
His mum, a tad suspicious, asked

‘What would you like for lunch, dear boy? —
Some soup? Or maybe you’d enjoy
some chicken noodles spiced with soy?
You must eat, son, so don’t be coy.

His tummy groaned, his head felt light
he ached for more than just a bite —
he had a horse’s appetite
but knew she’d smell a rat all right

if he should mention fish and chips
sausage rolls or cheesy dips.
He salivated, licked his lips —
imagined chocolate walnut whips...

‘If I could have a piece of toast’
he mumbled sadly with the most
wistful sigh ‘I’m feeling gross...’
and pulled his Star Wars duvet close.

His mother thought he must be ill
to lay so miserably still —
perhaps some potion or a pill
might help. A case of cure or kill...

‘Best ring the doctor’ she declared
which caught her Bobby unprepared
and feeling desperate — good and scared
he pleaded, hoping to be spared —

‘I’m really feeling not that bad’
he wheedled, careful, for she had
become more anxious and less mad —
resigned to nurse her ailing lad.

While off she went to toast some bread
her son crept quietly out of bed
and from his stash of chocolate fed
’til it was gone. He groaned instead

from feeling full — like he might burst
and nauseous (he feared the worst)
plus suffering from raging thirst
he judged himself as truly cursed.

Some might agree it served him right
quite pitiful — he looked a sight
his bed no longer laundered bright
pyjamas splattered, cheeks chalk-white...

The doctor took one look at him
his wise expression twisted grim
and said ‘I’ll go out on a limb —
his legs are weak, his eyes are dim —

I think this child needs more fresh air
to run about — play sport and share
outdoor pursuits. One must take care
to exercise — no time to spare.’

His mother nodded ‘Understood —
I will insist for Bobby’s good
he goes to football like he should
and eats less cake and treacle pud.

And doesn’t mope about his room
from mid-October round ’til June
like some fat grub in a cocoon
reluctant to emerge too soon!’

The doctor chuckled at her joke
and gave the boy a playful poke.
(He was, at heart, a kindly bloke
though loathe to suffer lazy folk).

His tone was firm. ‘I now suggest
in my opinion that it’s best
to stir yourself — get up, get dressed.
I sense you’ve been a mite depressed.’

There seemed no choice but to obey
the doctor, who went on his way.
Then Bobby, dragging feet of clay
endured the rest of the school day

including that so-dreaded Games —
his confidence shot down in flames
by sporty types with spiteful aims —
who ridiculed and took great pains

to insult Bobby — make him feel
useless — hopeless — all their zeal
directed so that the ordeal
revealed him as an imbecile...

They made him run — which made him puff
well past the point he’d had enough
but he was made of sterner stuff
and kept on going — braved the rough

and ready treatment meted out —
ignored the horrid things they’d shout.
He proved although he might be stout
he’d stamina, without a doubt.

He kicked and scored. The gathered crowd
signalled their approval loud —
they cheered and whooped, they clapped and wowed.
His mother cried ‘I am so proud!’

Because of him they won the game
and things were never quite the same.
He even braved the cold and rain
and never bunked off school again.

As for the voice he’d heard that day —
Mister No-one went away.
A nicer person came to stay
and far less trouble, Mum would say.

A SWEET LITTLE LOVE STORY

Marshmallow Molly was squishy and jolly
and Liquorice Linda so stretchy and thin
Aniseed Annie, plus Peppermint Polly
played pick ‘n’ mix games in an old treacle tin.

While Bubblegum Barry and Gobstopper Gary
were stuck in the pocket of six-year-old Sam
with Sherbert Dab Sidney, a Humbug named Harry
and half an old doughnut all covered in jam.

Now Linda and Molly, and Annie and Polly,
were lonely for sweethearts — had Valentine blues —
so, although it seemed folly, they traded their lolly
and went on a date with four fruit salad Chews.

The Chews were all brothers — they had umpteen others
exactly the same in their wrappers so neat —
all respectable types (as approved of by mothers) —
their shoes would have shone, had they had any feet.

Soon Molly was yawning (she found the boys boring)
so Linda and Annie, plus Polly and she
claimed back a full refund first thing in the morning
clearly due under terms of their shared guarantee.

The Chews were sent packing, untouched in their wrapping
their juicy-fruit flavours too sickly and bland
for the girls all agreed that excitement was lacking
and queued to see ‘Crunchy’ — a Seaside Rock Band.

Now Bill Lemon Barley and Caramel Charlie
gave fans a true taste of nostalgic romance
and small raisins went nuts in the Hot Fudge finalé
when Nigel the Nougat asked Bon Bon to dance.

Then Red Jellybean Jake grabbed Prue Pontefract Cake
and whipped up a storm ’til their additives glued
while a milk chocolate flake tried to rock, roll ‘n’ shake
but just crumbled completely — succumbed to the mood.

Anxious Annie and Molly, thin Linda and Polly
were wistfully hoping cool Charlie and Bill
might fancy a smooch with a sweet-natured dolly
but no one approached them all evening until

shy Bubblegum Barry, plump Gobstopper Gary
plus Sherbet Dab Sidney and Harry (in stripes)
(escaped from Sam’s pocket) now eager to marry
those favourite flavours most everyone likes.

So Annie and Gary, and Linda and Barry
(Aniseed, Gobstopper, Liquorice and Gum)
plus Molly and Sidney, and Polly and Harry
(Marshmallow and Sherbet, Mint peppered with Hum)

simply melted in bliss with each saccharine kiss —
a mix of affections, confections and taste
and no one missed out — every one got their wish
not a toffee-nosed truffle unloved in the place.

And each of the Chews — brothers right to the end
(and a trifle dejected, it has to be said)
soon were paired with a cute jellybaby girlfriend —
all four for a penny and keen to be wed.

On the day the sweet lovers expectantly clustered
with hundreds and thousands of colourful guests
(sprinkled profusely — the most they could muster)
were photographed proud in their cellophane vests.

Molly tossed her bouquet with a ‘Hip-hip-Hooray!’
It was caught by a pink and white coconut ice
and it’s said Rik Cough Candy proposed right away
in the heat of the moment — no need to ask twice.

At posh Honeymoon Hall it was sticky love-all
with a smitten cream egg and a wild walnut whip
while a large brandy ball hesitated to fall
or join in the scrum of the fun Lucky Dip

or the Jamboree Bag that our six-year-old Sam
bought from the shop at the end of his street...
Thus many years later, when grown to a man
he spun this love story — nonsensically sweet.

THE OWL WHO LOST HIS WOO

Wally was a young brown owl
who’d just learned how to fly.
His spent his days from dawn to dusk
asleep — and here is why:

An owl is specially designed
his eyes see in the dark
he’s different from garden birds
and those seen in the park.

He likes the woods and open fields —
a country bird and far
more at home in lonely spots
than many species are.

Owls love to glide at twilight time
across the windswept moors
where humans seldom venture — it’s
so hugely out-of-doors.

As Wally circled round he’d sing
the only tune he knew —
the one he practised every night
his soft ‘To-whit to-woo’.

And sometimes he would catch a mouse
for supper or a vole
he didn’t chew or mess about
but swallowed it down whole.

One night he saw a shadow hop
and much to his surprise
he spied a bullfrog on a log
bright moonshine in his eyes

and dazzled blind when Wally swooped
to grab it in mid-flight
the bullfrog never stood a chance
but croaked his dismal plight.

Frog wriggled fiercely then got stuck —
a lump in Wally’s throat —
the owl just wheezed — a funny noise —
one long and painful note.

He managed ‘To-whit...whit...whit...whit
but found he’d lost the ‘Woo’.
He coughed and coughed but couldn’t think
what else there was to do.

The lump remained — it bulged beneath
the feathers in his neck
and then it gave a fearful croak
to very great effect.

Alarmed, poor Wally almost choked
screeched loud and opened wide —
the bullfrog gave a frantic leap
and shot out from inside

with a neat parcel of small bones —
feathers, skulls and teeth —
the pellet landed on the grass
with bullfrog underneath.

Then Wally, feeling so relieved
let the fat creature go —
it waddled off into a stream
and quickly sank below.

And ever since, when Wally hunts
he takes especial care.
He leaves all bullfrogs well alone
and sets his sights elsewhere.

Each time he hears the faintest croak
‘To-whit to-woo’ he cries —
as warning to his brother owls
who mightn’t be so wise.

THE HOUSE WHERE LILY LIVED

In the grand house where Lily lived
the walls were high, the windows big
the roof was steep, the chimneys tall
and it was called Grey Ravens Hall.

Now Lily was an only child
her nature rather strange and wild —
when other kids came round to play
they soon got spooked and ran away.

So Lily spent most days alone
and through the house and garden roamed
with one small friend for company —
a bird who no one else could see.

She called this ghostly raven Thor
(after the god). His strident “Caw!”
accompanied her as she walked
around the lake. To him she talked —

unburdened all her secret fears
and dreams she’d kept so many years
to herself — no mother’s face
or kindly nurse about the place.

Just a great uncle, humped and frail
who tottered round, looked deathly pale
two faithful servants — fat and thin —
poor mad-eyed Meg and stick-man Jim.

No wonder Lily wasn’t quite
what other people judged as ‘right’
at ten years old — the gossips said
the girl was clearly ‘off her head!’

They’d shunned her at the village school
though she was neither dunce nor cruel
but claimed her influence malign
creeped-out the kids and undermined

their concentration, so the Board
decided (Lily’s pleas ignored)
it best the girl should be home taught
and rushed to send in their report.

A tutor, then, in time arrived
and biked along the gravel drive
up to the door and rang the bell
which clanged like doom’s forbidding knell.

The door was opened just a crack
by mad-eyed Meg, whose manners lacked
all welcome as she squinted out
and asked “What ’ave yer come about?”

The tutor, spinsterish and mild
replied “I’ve come about the child.
I’m here to teach your daughter — Lily”
and shivered — sensed the air grow chilly.

“Ain’t got no daughter” Meg replied
“Mebes you better step inside...”
The tutor blenched, she wouldn’t say
just why she pedalled fast away

so frantic was the urge to leave
despite she couldn’t quite believe
the rumours idle gossips shared
that left her shaken, trembling — scared.

Thus Lil was left to teach herself —
she took books down from every shelf
in the old library — each one
read start to finish. When she’d done

she wrote the title on a list.
She read for hours —never missed
a day of learning all she could —
her grasp of general knowledge good.

She specialised in subjects rare
(no warning voice advised “Beware!”)
and so she studied things obscure —
topics with a strange allure

in dusty tomes on weird religions
unsolved mysteries and legends
vampires, witchcraft, necromancy —
anything that took her fancy...

As ancient magick seeped inside her
her understanding grew still wider
and Thor perched close, familiar bird —
hung on to every pagan word

she spelled aloud. Then voices came
and whispered clear her Wiccan name —
“Lilith! — Little sister — come!”
She followed, fearful what she’d done...

Down in the cellar dark and damp
she lit a solitary lamp
that cast odd shadows on the wall
the silence stretched — no sound at all

except for Thor who flapped and flew
thrice times around as if he knew
some ritual drawn in time and space
connecting them to this grim place.

From out the walls twelve figures came —
cloaked and hooded — all the same
and chanting low a morbid dirge
while Lily fought a growing urge

to run — escape the hold they had.
Their presence made the air smell bad
like graves had opened — spilled their bones
along with dying cries and moans.

They drew her in — red eyes a-gleam
their circle numbering thirteen
and strong again with fresh young blood
to channel power like a flood

so they could conjure by the score
foul demons — as they’d done before.
Now Lily, suddenly aware
of dreadful danger, said a prayer

and broke the circle, heard them shriek
a curse — the coven’s power weak.
She spoke a bible verse as well
that sent them squealing back to Hell.

She shook herself, said “Come on, Thor!”
and marched towards the cellar door
but of the bird there was no sign —
just three singed feathers in a line.

From that day on our Lily changed —
the library she re-arranged
requesting that great uncle buy
more recent works — a good supply

of novels of the modern sort —
her fierce imagination caught
up in those tales of love and strife —
an altogether different life

where romance gripped and held its sway
brave heroes always saved the day
adventure thrilled, while danger lurked —
an alternate kind of magic worked...

Thus Lily was converted to
romantic fiction and she drew
such inspiration sweet and clear
to write and publish her idea.

She wrote an epic trilogy —
a work of total fantasy
and colourful — each story thread
an echo from the books she’d read

and woven tight into a theme
for readers who would share her dream
of high romance and worlds unknown
whose customs are unlike our own.

The venture was a huge success —
the flood of royalties such largess
it was enough to renovate
Grey Ravens Hall — the whole estate.

And so the crumbling house was saved —
the roof re-tiled, the paths re-paved
the rooms re-wired, new pipes plumbed through
to ensuite baths and showers, too.

The house shucked off its sense of gloom
with every freshly-painted room
replacement windows let the sun
shine in — the brooding shadows gone.

And Lil’s great uncle seemed transformed
as though vague realisation dawned
he grew quite cheery — lost his hump
and put on weight— was almost plump.

As for mad-eyed Meg and Jim
they evened out their ‘thick ’n’ thin’
and mellowed well in middle-age
devotees of the printed page...

And Lily’s reputation spread
with each new book her fans were fed —
great feasts of fancy so divine
enchanting all who came to dine.

She wrote a chapter every day
for years until, turned old and grey
and emptied of ideas, she sighed
put down her pen and quietly died.

*****

Grey Ravens Hall still stands alone.
It’s now a posh retirement home
and in its polished oak-beamed hall
a small brass plaque hangs on the wall —

In fond memory of Lily Green
who lived here from 1915
’til 8th November ’95
’Though she is gone,
her words survive.


And in the library revamped
with quite expensive reading lamps
the geriatric inmates doze
enveloped deep in Lily’s prose —

for there the groaning shelves are packed
floor to ceiling — stack on stack
with every title that brought fame
to Lily’s much-loved-author’s name.

And in the twilight’s slanting grey
sat at her desk — yet miles away
a shadow writes the world is all
some figment lost — beyond recall.

LENNY THE LOSER

Poor Lenny was a loser —
he couldn’t keep a thing.
He lost his conker even though
he kept it on a string.

At school he lost his coat and hat
and lost his brand new shoes —
things not glued or sewn on tight
he would, for certain, lose.

He grew up losing more and more —
he looked but couldn’t find
stuff he’d had just days before —
it seemed he’d lost his mind.

He lost his sense of humour. All
the money that he’d got.
He lost his job and with the stress
he kind of lost the plot.

He lost the few friends that he had
(he couldn’t quite think where).
He missed them vaguely... then he lost
his marbles and his hair.

With very little left to lose
he went and lost his health.
Unlucky to the very last
poor Lenny lost himself.

VIOLET THE VAMPIRE

Violet May Delilah Heath
was born with two sharp canine teeth.
Her mother, cautious and well-bred
insisted she was bottle-fed
so hired a trusty babyminder
and put the whole event behind her.

Violet became a mousy child —
quite introspective, manner mild
who rarely spoke but played all day
in such an unobtrusive way
no one noticed she was there
or how she fixed her glassy stare

on hapless insects caught and hung
in spiders’ webs discreetly strung
across the nursery window pane —
she’d pick the victims out again
and nibble on them half the night.
She had a gruesome appetite

for anything that crawled or flew
and there was nothing Nurse could do
except to tell her “No, no, no!”
and wag her skinny finger so
that Violet understood she should
give up such nasty ways for good.

Now Violet’s hardly-seen Papa
(a diplomat in India)
came visiting quite keen to see
his one and only progeny.
But found her an abnormal sort —
she wrecked the pretty doll he’d brought.

He’d been so sure she’d be delighted
but Violet merely tried to bite it —
disembowelled — pulled out its stuffing
while poor Papa, struck dumb, did nothing.
Offering up a silent prayer
to any god who might be there.

Papa, on all his travels, had
seen things miraculous and bad —
dark mysteries beyond belief
(what lurks behind or underneath
imagination’s potent spell)
some crazy stuff too weird to tell!

He watched his daughter, Violet
and feared the very worst. And yet
so hoped she wouldn’t cause much grief
despite her big and pointy teeth.
He puzzled how he came to sire
a creature such as this vampire.

He must at once inform his wife
and warn her for her very life
might be in danger from their child
(though usually her mood was mild).
he knew vamp nature — understood
her adolescent need for blood!

His wife, a beauty but few brains
refused to listen which explains
why she so gaily went ahead
with all her social plans instead
of heeding her wise husband’s warning
the consequences never dawning...

Her calendar was overflowing —
all the places she was going —
parties, dinners, get-togethers
playing croquet in all weathers —
that dizzy whirl of dates so caught her
she hardly thought about her daughter.

It happened in the weeks to come
that Violet eavesdropped on her mum
and heard that she was entertaining —
some great bash with rich and reigning
monarchs, plus their retinues
of hangers-on invited, too.

Violet licked her lips and smiled —
it sounded perfect to the child —
her home the ideal spot because it
meant she could climb out the closet —
announce with a malicious chortle
who she was — a true immortal!

In readiness for the affair
she flossed her teeth and curled her hair
and chose a long red party frock
one inky-black, one skin-white sock
and practised her dramatic lines
at least maybe a hundred times.

The night came round and every guest
in his best finery was dressed.
The several kings wore heavy crowns
and showed-off rather — marched around
while princes — maybe six or seven —
made believe they were in heaven

bowing low and waltzing madly
with their ladies. Violet, sadly
had no one to dance with, only
her old nurse. So, cross and lonely
’midst the blinding glare of glitter
she brooded, feeling dull and bitter.

Sudden stage fright held her breathless
(despite her status being deathless)
she couldn’t utter one small word —
her mind was blank — it was absurd
perplexing and ridiculous
that her great plan be thwarted thus...

It was just then — pure happenstance
some gallant chap asked her to dance
his manner courtly in extreme
(and afterwards she did feel mean!)
she grabbed the opportunity
and nodded, proper as can be.

Next moment, her Mama whirled by
like some demented butterfly
in her emerald-spangled dress
and giddy with the ball’s success —
her picture snapped for magazines
shown hobnobbing with kings and queens...

Violet gave Mama a grin
then dug her pointy fangs right in
her partner’s neck — he gave a yell
and fainted, which was just as well
for Violet dropped him with a sigh
or else she might have drunk him dry.

His life blood smeared upon her lips
she carefully licked up the drips
and looked around still thirsty for
another neckful. By the door
with stake in hand, her father stood
white-faced with all his faith in wood.

The vampire in her snarled to see
how people turn capriciously
against their kin. The human half
of her inclined to scoff and laugh
how folk could kill, then justify
when she’d no choice but feed or die.

The ballroom waited, hushed and still
no muscle moved one inch until
Violet May Delilah Heath
retracted both sharp pointy teeth
and made a statement there and then
she’d never bother them again.

So she left home that very night
booked on some Transylvanian flight.
She never texted them or wrote
except for one short leaving note
that gave her reasons in a list
why vampires cannot co-exist

with humankind — men will not share
so supernaturals need beware
and find themselves a safer home —
some monster-friendly twilight zone
where Violet went for bad or worse
and when she’s homesick, sucks on Nurse.

A GIFT FROM RUDOLPH

Jasmine imagined she saw a deer
hiding behind the sofa.
She could see the shadow of its antlers
cast against the wall.
It crouched there very still. In fact
it made no sound at all.

Now Jasmine was a curious child
and clever as a cat.
The reason that the deer was there
quite clear — he’d grabbed a nap
and while he dozed the herd moved on.
He’d woken up to find them gone.

And Jasmine knew that deer are shy
by nature — timid to a fault
and not inclined to make a fuss
but freeze and blend if ever caught.
They merge into the wallpaper
where possible. And wait it out ...

So Jasmine tiptoed soft as soft
around the furniture
so as not to startle or alarm.
Pretty sure the beast was listening —
cautiously aware of her —
bowstring-taut although the air hung calm.

All in a rush a shadow leapt
and dashed towards the door.
Our Jasmine dived for cover just in case
those flying hoofs might catch her
as he made his bold escape
leaving chocolate reindeer droppings
                                on the floor...

SERENA THE FAIR

Long ago in a kingdom now vanished from earth -
disappeared in the grey mists of time -
a treasure was hid of such fabulous worth
in a mountain that few dared to climb.

Deep in a cave, so the legend was told
lay these jewels so exquisite and rare —
wonderfully fashioned and set in pure gold
for a queen named Serena the fair.

The tales of her beauty were whispered in awe
by those privileged to glimpse the royal face.
Her one portrait hung high on the main castle wall
and shone down like a star from its space.

News of her traveled, and suitors flocked fast
bearing gifts to impress and delight
drawn in by the magic such stories had cast
they journeyed by day and by night.

They gathered together within the great hall
grown impatient for her to appear
gifts piled on the table and heaped by the wall
balanced carelessly, tier upon tier.

At last fair Serena descended the stair
and greeted her guests with a smile
amazed to see how many presents were there
and afraid it would take quite a while

to meet everybody and thank one and all
for the crowd was five hundred no less
(though she wondered a moment but couldn’t recall
when she’d last given out her address).

Courtly manners prevailed and she graciously sailed
through their midst like a yacht in a race
tactful and slim — beauty’s charms never failed
men grew weak at the sight of her face...

Then each man in turn duly asked for her hand
and she, of blue blood, turned him down
but kindly and hoping that he’d understand
only love was a match for her crown.

So every lord, duke or earl (dizzy hearts gone awhirl)
disappointed and gently dismissed
still agreed she was truly a wonderful girl
and thus welcome to keep all their gifts.

Perhaps they were fools to bestow heaps of jewels
but it seems she was happy they did
for the treasure was packed on the backs of strong mules
hauled high up some mountain and hid.

Though she wore one or two — twin sapphires dark blue
as the colour of midnight’s clear skies
and a necklace — gem-strung like a web in the dew
with diamonds as sharp as her eyes.

A whole year came and went — not one invite was sent
yet an army of visitors came —
princes, some knights, plus a sheik with his tent
and basically more of the same.

Serena was flattered ( for what else really mattered?)
she permitted each one to pay court
then tenderly spurned them — leaving them shattered
while she hoarded the riches they’d brought.

The rumours of treasure grew harder to measure
for such tales stretched incredibly tall —
claimed the queen's lonely joy was the sheer gloating pleasure
of assessing the worth of it all.

At last beauty faded — Serena grew jaded
and bitter — her temper was short
then news reached her ears that her gemstore was raided
what’s more, the foul thief had been caught.

She had him dragged in — poor and guilty as sin
middle-aged — just a bit past his prime
with appealing dark eyes and a strong hero’s chin
and no sign of remorse for his crime.

He was handsome and lean — it was hard to stay mean
so she smiled at his insolent stare
for some kind of magic had arrowed between
and bewitched her — Serena the fair.

She felt suddenly mellow — she fancied this fellow
though undoubtedly common — no class
with his old-fashioned cloak lined with luminous yellow
she imagined the moment would pass...

But their eyes became locked and she trembled, quite shocked
by some power that made her heart jump
his expression intense as her world slowly rocked
and she came back to earth with a bump.

It was Fate, she decided, and much later confided
to her maid (and her only true friend)
although ’Love at first sight’ was a myth she’d derided
it had sure proven true in the end.

So Serena turned sweet — being swept off her feet
by a stranger unworthy but bold
when he plighted his troth — their pact made complete
with a ring from her cache that he’d stole.

Was he wizard or pirate — or simply a fraud ?
To be honest she didn’t much care.
She dressed him in silks and proclaimed him a lord
and considered they made a fine pair.

They were married one night in the mystical light
of the stars — witnessed by a full moon
and her gown glittered fierce its stiff-petalled white
like a frost fallen hard on a bloom.

Soon he’d melted her will — calmed her spirit until
she was putty in his sculptor's hands
art shielded true purpose and practised sly skill
as he plundered her wealth and her lands.

He discreetly connived while their passion survived
his emotions weren’t totally false —
she got under his skin though he schemed and contrived
sheer affection deflected his course.

When the time came to leave he just couldn't believe
that somehow she’d made him her slave
and conscience undid his cruel plan to deceive
he put back all he'd thieved from her cave.

And there it remains — heaps of jewel-studded chains
in the dark of a cold mountain vault
and no one has found it for all of their pains
though for years the famed treasure was sought.

Serena lived long with her husband, Lord John
both were happy and well growing old
for together they found, so the story goes on
their love had no need of that gold.

SEA VOICES

I wish I could dive to the floor of the ocean
sink down through the depths of the green salty sea
and glide with the manta rays, feed with the fishes —
the song of the mermaid is calling to me.

I long to swim out to a far distant island
and laze in lagoons that are tranquil and clear
and listen to shells — hear their echoing stories —
faint watery sounds tumbling soft in my ear.

I dream I could ride on the back of a dolphin
cross the Sargasso with millions of eels
follow the humpbacks, their sad voices haunting
the mew of the seabird, the barking of seals.

The tide plays a rhythm that lures and entices
and bids me wade out through the talkative foam —
it lulls and beguiles me, it beckons and draws me
urging me back to my old seabed home.

I stand on the shore like a soul barely tethered
to anything solid, the wind cries my name —
I deep breathe the air, knowing water would drown me
eyes fixed on the path, walk the same way I came.

THE AFTERLIFE

I am a ghost —
it’s not the most
exciting job I’ve done —
this jumping out and shouting ‘Boo!’
is really not much fun.

It makes me sad
and I feel bad
when people run away
and it gets kind of lonely so
I rather wish they’d stay

and maybe chat
of this and that —
the weather or the news —
in life I was a cheerful chap
but now I’ve got the blues.

And in the dark
this haunting lark
can be an awful bore —
I often sit and dream about
the job I did before.

I must admit
the truth of it —
I murdered one or two —
well, seventeen the papers said —
give or take a few

at random shot —
perhaps I got
the fate that I deserve
but now I have nobody and
it’s getting on my nerves.

So I was hung —
still highly strung
and feeling quite perplexed —
I thought I’d paid for what I’d done —
the punishment came next.

THE NEW BOY

The new boy’s called Joe Mistry —
he says he’s from Hong Kong
and his dad’s a maharaja
but I might have got that wrong.

Our ‘show and tell’ was fun today —
Joe brought some photographs
of his uncle in Alaska
rounding up some wild giraffes

and another of his brother
who’s a rock star in the States
standing next to Jimi Hendrix
‘cos Joe reckons they were mates.

But I didn’t quite believe it
though I didn’t say a word
for the other kids seemed dead impressed
and swallowed all they heard.

For Joe is really funny
although he brags a lot
about his family and all
the wacky jobs they’ve got.

Like his cousin works for N.A.S.A.
and has travelled to the moon
he designed their latest weapon —
it’s a giant space harpoon

for hunting Martian monsters
Joe’s cousin has seen loads —
but everything is so hush-hush
his post cards are in code.

Joe’s mum was a magician —
a real one, not a fraud —
but when a dangerous trick went wrong
she disappeared abroad.

Now Joe can talk for hours
about this kind of stuff
and I wouldn’t hurt his feelings
but I think it’s all a bluff

and probably he’s lonely
’cos it’s scary being new
that’s why he tells those stories
and makes believe they’re true.

BEING BRAVE

I never cry, I never cry
or weep or wail or moan —
I never let them see I’m hurt
or hear me sob and groan.

I feel the pain — of course I do! —
each punch and scratch and kick —
inside it feels like I’m on fire —
all hot and weak and sick.

I don’t complain or run to Mum
I never, ever tell
for grassing would just make things worse —
they’ve threatened me as well.

I try to dodge them all I can
when face to face behave
like I am not afraid at all —
make out I’m really brave

but I wish they’d find somebody else
and pick on them instead
I can’t imagine what I’ve done
or what some kid has said...

Maybe they just don’t like me
perhaps it’s ’cos I’m black
I know they talk about me
and make jokes behind my back...

Sometimes it makes me angry
but I don’t let it show
I let them think I’m stupid
for they won’t ever know

how words can hurt like punches —
a different kind of pain
that doesn’t fade like bruises
or heal like new again.

Being brave is how I cope —
I never cry or tell —
and no one knows what’s going on
I hide the scars so well.

HANDS UP

My dad has got enormous hands —
they’re rough and scarred from chopping
logs — ’cos he’s a lumberjack
and spends his workday lopping
trees out in the forest
with an axe that weighs a ton
and once he had an accident —
he’s now got half a thumb.

My mum’s a nurse — her hands are clean
and soft from all that patting
pillows on her patients’ beds —
her touch is smooth as satin
as she wipes their brows and rubs their aches
with firm but gentle strokes —
she has these sort of healing hands
that help all kinds of folks.

My sister Mel has minute hands —
her fingers curl and hold
tight round mine — she’s pink and new
and only ten days old.
She clings to Mum — her grip so fierce
although her hands are tiny
and wrinkled slightly at the wrist
her baby nails all shiny.

Dad says my hands are like a boy’s —
my grubby nails all bitten —
stained with ink and sometimes grass
all scratched with bits of grit in...
I wash them at least once a week
with proper soap and water
but scrubbed they seem like they belong
to someone else’s daughter.

You can learn a lot from hands
and you don’t need a palmist
to tell a builder from a nun
a docker from a psalmist.
They kind of give the game away
(my frilly frock’s a decoy)
my hands are all the clues you need —
at heart I’m just a tomboy!

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY?

‘What did you do in the war, Daddy? —
What did you do in the war?’
‘Oh, I was sent to foreign lands
where I’d never been before.’

‘So,what did you do there, Daddy —
so very far from home?
Were you with all your friends, Daddy —
or were you on your own?’

‘Oh, I had some friends, my darling girl
but I had foes as well —
and which was which now years have passed
I find it hard to tell.’

‘I don’t know what you mean, Daddy —
for surely you must know
even after all this time
what marked out friend from foe.’

Her father sighed and solemn-eyed
he took his daughter’s hand
wondering what wise words to use
to help her understand...

‘It seemed so simple,’ he began
‘they drilled us from the start
to think the enemy were men
with evil in their hearts

but then, up close, and face to face
I found it wasn’t true
and they were young — mere boys like us —
not monsters through and through.

The one who helped me — saved my life —
wasn’t on our side
and but for him — my enemy —
I surely would have died.

My comrades — in the thick of fray —
outnumbered — fell or fled —
and left me wounded — probably
assuming I was dead.

A young man lay a yard away
unconscious first, then moaned
at seeing me — his enemy —
he winced with pain and groaned.

So, there we were — both injured, ’though
his wounds were less than mine.
He offered me a cigarette —
we lay and smoked a time

and found that gestures were enough —
we had no need of words —
I knew — like me — he thought our plight
ironic and absurd.

So when his friends came back for him
they rescued me as well
despite my uniform that told
I was some fiend from Hell.

You see, when men get close to death
they pick out truth from lies
and what a man wears on his back
is often mere disguise.

We recognised, despite the war
that most men want the same —
a peaceful life not forced to play
some madman’s pointless game.

They hid me, fed me, patched me up
found me a place to stay
where strangers showed humanity
thus proved where goodness lay

in ordinary working folk
caught up in something vast
and terrible — for no one seems
to learn much from the past.

We go to war and no one wins —
not in reality
and all are poorer in the end
for such insanity.

So that’s what I did in the war —
I fought and nearly died
and it was just one humane act
ensured that I survived.

Compassion was the lesson learnt —
ingrained — I’m grateful still
that I was shown so graphically
how wrong it is to kill

or hate a stranger on the strength
of uniform or race —
our minds misled by ignorance
grey-suited, double-faced.

No, I didn’t win a medal for
some brave heroic deed
although I served my country in
its darkest hour of need.

What happened gave me the idea
once battle was all done
I’d tell my story to the world
and pass some wisdom on...

But no one wants to listen to
the voice that sings for peace —
they find it dull — too quiet once
the screams and gunfire cease.

They want to hear of victory —
of sacrifice and glory —
the stuff of legends sends a thrill
that makes the better story.

But Truth is patient — bides its time
unchanged, it will endure
and waits for those who seek it out
forever strong and sure.

The man who saved me sent me news —
he has a daughter, too.
No doubt he’s told her the same tale
that I’m now telling you...

When conversations turn to war
consider well, my dear
had I been cut from heroes’ cloth
it’s doubtful you’d be here

and I’d be in some foreign field —
a cross with just my name
for no one would remember me
since life goes on the same...’

His daughter’s eyes filled up with tears
she said emphatically
‘Oh, Daddy you will always be
a real hero to me! —

What daughter could not help admire
your honesty and care —
your loyalty to the ones you love —
your rules for playing fair?

And your answer to my question tells
me all I need to know —
far more than I might learn from books
TV or radio.’

Her father, smiling, let his thoughts
drift back and lay a wreath
on graves of all who died in war
when wanting only peace.

AINSLEY PHILPOT GRUDGE

The fate of Ainsley Philpot Grudge
was due to too much toffee fudge —
his weakness for the chewy sweet
piled on the pounds from head to feet
though never thin and far from tall
he grew from boy-shape into ball

and rolled along — he couldn’t walk
was short of breath, could hardly talk
all his clothes became too small —
the buttons wouldn’t reach at all
yet still he gorged and filled his tum
and didn’t listen to his mum.

At last he grew to such a size
his granma, being old and wise
and judging it was ‘kill or cure’
resorted to a spell — obscure
but tried and tested — cast it right
to take away his appetite.

The next day Ainsley Philpot Grudge
declared he hated toffee fudge
and couldn’t even bear the smell
of chocolate — felt sick as well
and said ‘no thank you’ to his dinner
while visibly, the boy got thinner.

His granma watched and all too soon
the boy deflated like a balloon —
his skin was rubbery to press
as he got less... and less... and less
until at last he was no more
than a small heap upon the floor.

His mum, despairing, wept and wailed
that Granma’s spell had clearly failed
but Gran, unfazed, suggested smartly
they’d hire him out for birthday parties...
a new idea — a boy-shaped parcel
inflating like a bouncy castle!

So Ainsley Philpot Grudge’s fate
was advertised at bargain rate —
at birthday teas his person (bloated)
filled with gas and silver coated
a warning printed on his side
that could be generally applied —

This article in not a toy —
please do not puncture or employ
foreign objects sharp or pointed
fold carefully where parts are jointed.
Do not immerse in bath or sea —
mis-use will void the guarantee.


Thus he was hired for grand events
along with tables, chairs and tents —
such gatherings as summer fêtes
where one kid (pushing past his mates)
stared hard, then whispered with a nudge
“I’m sure that’s Ainsley Philpot Grudge!”

Eyes popping wide and mouths agape
they pondered Ainsley’s massive shape
amazed to find how he’s become
the wobbly object of such fun
when only a few weeks before
they’d ridiculed him and ignored

each time he’d asked to join their games
they’d shut him out and called him names...
Ironic that a boy once spurned
had changed — so tables thus were turned
with Ainsley now a novelty
ranked high in popularity

while all his classmates formed long queues
paid fifty pence (removed their shoes)
for just ten minutes bouncing free
in Ainsley’s breathless company.
And business boomed and made him rich
but pressure grew to such a pitch

his silver coating flaked and wore
his bunting sagged, his fabric tore
though Mum and Gran took turns to patch
his skin emitted puffs of gas
that burped and bubbled round and round
like some volcano underground.

Poor Ainsley suffered — plagued until
the stress and worry made him ill.
He gave the neighbourhood a fright
when something ripped one restless night —
some stitch or button overloaded
burst and thus the boy exploded!

Bits flew here and bits flew there —
the smell of rubber choked the air
and Ainsley — what remained of him —
seemed hardly worth recycling
but Gran (determined, though bereft)
collected grimly what was left

as evidence — and made a claim
on the insurance — laid the blame
on global warming — too much sun
had perished Ainsley and undone
his future prospects, so Gran fought
for compensation in the court.

The magistrates sat quite confused
and didn’t seem one bit amused
to hear Gran quote some point of law
they’d never come across before
applied to a strange lumpy parcel —
part grandson and part bouncy castle.

Gran argued hard — her speech was long —
convinced her case was proven strong
for in her mind there was no doubt
so when the action was thrown out
she faced their shaking heads and frowns
and cursed their wigs and crow-black gowns.

Now Ainsley was past care or pains
but what to do with his remains?
Both Mum and Gran thought it might be
okay to scatter him at sea
and toss the boy they held so dear
from off the end of some quiet pier.

They picked a morning bright and calm
the pier was old and quaint with charm
and so the two, with Ainsley wrapped
more neatly now in sombre black
wandered casual as can be
towards the glittering blue sea.

About halfway Gran licked her lips
and said “I fancy fish and chips —
I won’t be long — you two stay here.”
With that she turned and disappeared
so Ainsley’s mum sat down to wait
and brooded on her boy’s sad fate.

And while she dozed a stranger came —
he took the parcel — breathed his name —
undid the magick Gran had cast
and freed young Ainsley’s soul at last!
The rest he shook over the rail
and lo! — a bouncing baby whale

who waved his tail fin playfully
as though to say “Hello — it’s me!”
then spouted, rolling through the tide
familiar writing on his side —
some warning about bath or sea
that might affect the guarantee...

Later, when his Gran returned
she nodded wisely as she learned
where Ainsley’d gone... “Oh, let’s not fret —
far better to forgive — forget
(she paused to give his mum a nudge)
and harbour not the smallest Grudge!”

FALLING OUT

We’ve fallen out — my friend and me
although we rarely disagree
but she said things about my brother
so we’re not speaking to each other.

There’s times, it’s true, my family
have the odd tiff, and frequently
the atmosphere has quite a chill —
long awkward silences until

someone gives in and says “Okay —
I’m sorry!” Almost straight away
they make it up — forgive, forget
and things go back to normal. Yet

I’m not sure that the last bit’s true —
forgetting’s often hard to do
for words can hurt — cut deep and sting
although I’ve tried like anything

to reason my misgivings out
there still remains that nagging doubt
for sorry’s easy — hand on heart —
but meaning it’s the tricky part...

I’d say “Let’s drop it” — just ignore —
go back to how we were before —
she’s my best friend but he’s my brother
and we stick up for one another.

So, I’ll simply bide my time and see
if she’ll apologise to me
and then I’ll carefully explain
it’s only me can call him names!

PET POEM

A poem’s a creature born thin as a page —
invisible — almost — when viewed from the side
and quietly he sits — the black bars of his cage
keep him from straying — lines carefully tied

in a bow that suggests he’s a dear little pet —
tamed and obedient — trained to be neat —
has a child-friendly nature — affectionate — yet
he has sharp rows of teeth and there’s claws on his feet.

So do learn to be gentle and treat him with care —
heed well the advice that good verse-keepers write —
some poems seem playful but best be aware
there are rhymes that turn nasty and may even bite!

BABY-MINDING BLUES

Oh take our Billy away, Mother!
I’ve had more than enough of him —
he’s been a pest all day, Mother
my patience has worn thin

so I’m feeling really stressed, Mother
and I’m fighting hard to keep
calm — I did my best, Mother
but he just wouldn’t go to sleep!

He ate a bar of soap, Mother
then sicked up on the cat
how am I supposed to cope, Mother
with something gross as that?

And I’d only turned my back, Mother
for no more than a minute
when I heard the toilet crack, Mother
as he hurled his toys right in it!

I tried to fish them out, Mother —
three cars and poor Bugs Bunny
and he left me in no doubt, Mother —
he found the whole thing funny

as the water overflowed, Mother
and now the carpet’s soaking
I called him a little toad, Mother
but he grinned — like I was joking!

And you know your best black dress, Mother —
hung behind your bedroom door?
Well, it’s in a proper mess, Mother
’cos he dragged it round the floor

then screwed it in a ball, Mother
and he found your lipstick, too —
wrote rude words on the wall, Mother
that I didn’t think he knew!

I’m reduced to a nervous wreck, Mother
and though it might sound harsh to say —
I’m afraid I’ll wring his neck, Mother
if you don’t take him away!

ALL WEATHERS

Rain is fun — I like the puddles —
sploshing through in welly boots
paddling by the drains and gutters
where the gurgling water shoots.

Sunny days are good for playing
at the seaside — on the beach —
running through the sand and jumping
back where tingling waves can’t reach.

Windy days are fine for flying
kites that zoom across the sky
and when the string tugs at my fingers
it’s like I’m soaring way up high.

Frosty days are great for sliding
where the ice spreads like a sheet —
glittering across the pavement
and slippery beneath my feet.

But best are days that wake to silence —
all around a breathless glow
and everything transformed and frozen
by a magic fall of snow.

ODD ONE OUT

Benjamen Jones has sticky-out bones
Timothy Williams has warts
Peter has pimples, Dan’s got girly dimples
and Gordon’s too big for his shorts.

Frederick Sweet has different size feet
Philip is thin as a rake
Justin is weedy, Tristram’s just greedy
but no one’s as nerdy as Jake.

Jeremy Flint has an odd sort of squint
Nathan McBride’s quite insane
and Joshua Green is a sight to be seen
but snivelling Jake is a pain.

Jake Wilson-Grant lives with his great aunt
and she looks so grumpy and grim
that we let him hang and be one of the gang
just because we’re all sorry for him.

THE LAND OF SLEEP

I don’t want to wake up
I don’t want to get up
and I don’t want to go out
this morning...

I like it in the warm and dark
I want to go on dreaming
don’t put the light on — close the door
and go back down the stairs
leave me safe in my cocoon
with no worries and no cares.

The land of sleep is where I’ll stay —
where I’ve made lots of friends
so why should I have to leave
because the night-time ends?

I don’t want to wake up —
I don’t much like today —
it’s always raining in this world
I think I’ll drift away
back to the shores where fairies live
and we can play.

SHADOW PEOPLE

When the owl is hooting softly
and I’m on the edge of sleep
from the corners of my bedroom
silent shadow people creep.

From beneath my closing eyelids
I have glimpsed them crowding round —
a grey mist of hands and faces
hovering — they make no sound

and I’ve felt their eyes upon me
fingers plucking empty air
while I concentrate on breathing
and pretend I’m unaware

they are waiting for that moment
when not asleep, yet not awake
my own shadow isn’t tethered
and it’s then they’ll try to take

another soul to join them
in whatever realm they roam
so I whisper to the moonlight
the old words to send them home.

Then like a tide receding
the grey people melt away
and on morning’s far horizon
a cock crows in the day.

HANDS OFF

I hate my little brother —
he’s Dad and Mummy’s pet —
he always gets the things he wants,
he’s awful spoilt, and yet

when a boy called Nasty Nigel
took my brother’s favourite car,
I made that bully give it back —
’cos that’s the way things are.

He may be dead annoying —
a pest, and sometimes dim,
but he’s still my little brother
and no one picks on him!

A SPRITE AT MIDNIGHT

You’ve come to bring me torment — I can tell
like a tickle I can’t reach around to scratch
your wing a constant niggle in my ear
your voice a whining whisper I can’t hush.

It is your sport to worry — pinch and pain
tease every nerve awake again — denying sleep
you tantalize and goad — I can’t conceive
what snip of satisfaction you can get

while you prod and poke — deliberately upset
a helpless victim — you pesky little toad!

I’ve glimpsed you sideways flitting by
a shadow near my part-closed eye —
Are you classed imp or elf — what folklore name
fits your darting — small — annoying self?

If I could find you — track you to a corner —
I would thwack you like a fly!
Squash you like a bug — you spiteful faery thing!
You are the nastiest little beast I’ve ever — almost — seen!

GRABJACK WOOD — A WARNING

If you go down to Grabjack Wood
near dusk and all alone
you’re doomed to lose your way for good
and never get back home.

There’s strange things lurk between the trees —
there’s faerie rings and mounds
sly whispers taunt — die on the breeze —
and packs of ghostly hounds

close-follow hard upon the heel
of anyone who strays
so eager for a tender meal
they’ll track you down for days.

If they don’t catch you first some witch
might fancy you instead —
enchant you by some fetid ditch
and feed you mouldy bread.

She’ll fatten you and spell you blind
like it’s some scary game —
tease out your soul and squeeze your mind
until you’re quite insane.

The ancient wood is overgrown
its twisted heart is black —
choked up with fearsome rumours sown
that say the dragon’s back...

Such myths and old wive’s tales run wild —
who knows which ones are true?
Old Grabjack hunts the wandering child —
make sure it isn’t you!

THE NOVICE

In through my window one evening at twilight
a large moth came bumbling as though drunk or near-blind
and with it a perfume came wafting so sweetly
it brought warm garden memories into my mind.

The moth fluttered dizzily — landed quite clumsily
its wings like large petals deep purple and blue
and wearing a brown furry coat buttoned tightly
while on each long black leg was a dainty red shoe.

Then I saw its dear face as it sat looking up at me
its earnest expression so clear in its eyes —
the face of a faerie — exquisite in detail
peered out from its stumbling insect disguise.

I dared hardly move — concerned I would frighten her
as she sat there resting — regaining her breath
so we gazed at each other for maybe a minute
and what she was thinking I can’t even guess.

Then she flapped and took off again — whirring — erratic
her flight navigation a worry to see
how she bumped against everything — panicking — nervous
landing awkward once more she glanced over at me.

“Take your time — there’s no hurry” I whispered “Don’t worry
you’ll soon get the hang of it — just concentrate.”
Then I watched as she practised — growing more confident.
Outside the night gathered — the time getting late.

From bookcase to picture rail — lampshade to mirror
she glided — her wings like a soft paper dart
and I heard her laughing — her red shoes tap dancing
and something quite magical entered my heart.

Then out through the window she sped like a meteor
the dust from her wings drifting silvery rain
and I wished her goodbye in a dream slow-dissolving
resigned to the thought I’d not see her again.

Yet there have been some times in the still of the evening
the thud of soft bodies and wings beat the glass
and I look to the window and see tiny faces —
she and her friends peering in as they pass.

So while others see moths I quite often see faeries
flying at dusk in their insect disguise —
most mortals can’t see them — don’t even imagine —
unless they are fey or unusually wise.

TO A SHY FAIRY

Some nights I sense you — catch a glimpse
of a soft fluttering
from where you linger — shy of light —
the tremble of a wing
in shadow — silent as a moth
you flit about the room
weightless — like a swirl of dust
to settle safe in gloom.

You need not fear me — I’ve no plan
to harm you or your kind
and you are welcome here to share
what comfort you can find
beneath my roof — while I sit still
and wonder why you come
exploring — yet there is no sign
of mischief — damage done.

I sense — small creature — you’re benign
in spirit — simply coy
and I’m intrigued to see your face —
are you a girl or boy?
Imagination pictures you
as sprite or maybe elf —
I have no doubt you’re something fey
and wish you’d show yourself

just for a moment — just we two —
our worlds allowed to touch
and if you hear me let me say
the chance would mean so much
to witness — once — with my own eyes
what I believe is true —
so please come out from where you hide
and let me look at you.

TINY GHOST

The house we live in once belonged
— was home — to someone else —
some other child slept in my room,
their books upon my shelf.

They sat on this old window seat,
gazed out at the same sky
and daydreamed just as I do now
and watched the clouds drift by.

Maybe they wondered, thought about
the future and the past —
how all things change, the world moves on
and nothing’s meant to last...

There’d come a time in years ahead
a stranger in their place
would think about them, make believe
they’d found a tell-tale trace —

some tiny ghost — an echo left —
a whisper and a sigh —
a shadow where there should be none —
a shiver passing by.

THE TALE OF ELIZA AND CLAUDE

Eliza-Jayne Myfanwy Letts
was fond of creepy crawly pets
although forbidden by her mother
and warned she shouldn’t by her brother
she kept a multi-legged collection
and tended them with true affection.

In pickle jars of graded size
she housed in rows her moths and flies
beetles, spiders and odd things
that hopped and wriggled, flapped their wings —
her natural fascination grew
for all that buzzed and hummed and flew.

Her favourite bug above all else
took pride of place upon her shelf —
a ‘hairy worm’ she just adored —
a caterpillar known as Claude
who munched through leaves and fattened quick —
his bristles shiny, long and thick.

Eliza watched with glowing pride
as Claude climbed up the jar’s smooth side
and wandered round its glassy rim
and listened as she spoke to him
then on her finger took a crawl
as though he didn’t mind at all.

But some weren’t happy in her zoo —
some barely thrived and quite a few
(however hard Eliza tried)
curled up their toes and quietly died
and nothing she could do or say
made much difference. Every day

she’d find to her intense despair
a casualty — legs in the air
and stiff to every poke and prod —
no sign of life — they’d gone to God
without a word — no fond farewell —
no cause — as far as she could tell.

It was a puzzle why they died —
Eliza worried, frowned and sighed
and made especial fuss of Claude
afraid he might get sick or bored
with life alone in his round jar —
feel stressed at where his family are...

She felt quite quite anxious as she checked
how many leaves were holey — wrecked
and chewed right down to their tough veins
while Claude — curled round their stalk remains —
seemed well content and fit enough
packed full of healthy veggie stuff.

But then it came about one day
that on the bottom poor Claude lay
and twitching gently while Eliza
tearful, wishing she was wiser
watched the skin peel from his back
revealing something brownish-black.

It gleamed — peculiar and shiny —
bullet-shaped — its pulse a tiny
heartbeat flickered ’neath the skin
where Claude was hidden — trapped within
and past all remedy or cure —
Eliza feared him dead for sure.

What fever caused his sense to float
and shrug off his long hairy coat
she could not fathom — even guess
why Claude would leave her so — unless
he had a need of a disguise...
so she’d be patient — dry her eyes.

The days passed by — with Winter gone
still Claude slept on — and on — and on.
Eliza fretted while fresh slugs
garden snails, assorted bugs
all shared the tense, nail-biting wait
and prayed Claude’s trance-like spell would break.

Spring sunlight found Claude’s dusty jar —
a nerve was triggered from afar —
the brittle skin cracked like an egg
as Claude pushed through one slender leg
and pulled his crinkled body free
of everything he used to be.

You should have heard Eliza shout —
she danced for joy — she skipped about —
amazed to see such awesome things
as Claude’s unfolding peacock wings —
the chubby brown-furred grub was gone —
his colours now like stained glass shone.

She ran to tell her mother — found
her brother, too, who at the sound
of the commotion dropped his book
and jumped right up to take a look
demanding what had made her so
excited (like he didn’t know!)

Transformed, Claude pumped his wings and stared
right through the glass — got all prepared
for his first flight into the blue.
Eliza knew she must unscrew
the lid and let her pet fly free
and found his insect dynasty.

They stood aside — Eliza’s mother
and her know-it-all big brother —
watched how carefully she set
Claude — her best and favourite pet
fluttering free — up through the sky —
no looking back — not one goodbye.

Afterwards she felt quite sad —
missing Claude — on balance glad
she’d let him go — had done what’s right
it being an uplifting sight
to witness his return to wild —
in fact it so impressed the child

she promised (as she wiped her eyes)
she’d take her spiders, bugs and flies
back to the field where they belonged
despite the fact she was so fond
of Earl the earwig and his wife —
they so deserved a better life!

Eliza grew up wise and good
and studied like a smart girl should
until she’d earned a top degree —
a first in entomology
for all the knowledge she had learned
began with Claude — a ‘hairy worm.’

WHEN TWO BUGS HAVE A HUG

When two bugs have a hug
it’s a complicated affair —
all those legs and long thin bits
waving around in the air.

It’s something of a tangle —
an intricate muddle
when two insects in love
have a kiss and a cuddle.

Twelve arms/legs — whatever —
four antennae plus mouth parts
locked in confusion
while fast-beating bug-hearts

are caught up in the moment —
they wrestle insanely —
their courtship impetuous
rough and ungainly.

Which one lets go first
and breaks off the embrace
when they’re so tightly glued
is a problem they face ...

Sometimes one will take off
while the other still clings —
a clear demonstration
that true love has wings.

POPULARITY STAKES

Nobody loves poor Mary-Jane —
her hair is lank — her face is plain —
just nobody loves Mary-Jane.

She had a party — nobody came
and no one really was to blame
when nobody cares for Mary-Jane.

She went to the beach — it poured with rain —
bad luck follows Mary-Jane —
but nobody’s sorry all the same.

Nobody notices Lindy-Lou —
she doesn’t ask why — hasn’t a clue —
what nobody does, or doesn’t, do.

Nobody knows what Lindy-Lou
says about them — if it’s true
she won’t tell me — or even you.

Nobody misses Lindy-Lou —
she’s shy — like nobody through and through —
Nobody questions — wonders — who?

Nobody cares for Sally-Ann —
not one single friend or fan —
most avoid her — if they can.

Nobody sides with Sally-Ann
when debating should they ban
bossy brothers — to a man.

Nobody votes for Sally-Ann
in any poll that ever ran —
no secret ‘kiss’ for Sally-Ann.

Everybody* likes Billie-Jo —
she’s cute and really nice to know —
her friendships don’t swing to and fro —

she’s loyal and kind — sweet Billie-Jo —
her prettiness not all for show —
she’s good all through — from head to toe.

*All except for Mary-Jane
and Lindy-Lou finds her a pain
while it drives Sally-Ann insane

for deep inside they each know
they’ve got a million miles to go —
Nobody’s as perfect as Billie-Jo.

TELL ME

Mother, why do you hold your head —
what news has made you cry?
What did that policeman have to say —
tell me — did someone die?

I know a little about death —
I found a mouse today
frozen on the garden path
and touched it where it lay

eyes shut and tiny paws clenched tight
its tail a question mark
curling as it left this world
went off into the dark...

So tell me, Mother — I’ll be brave
what’s happened? — Is it bad?
Although he left us years ago
I’m half-afraid it’s Dad...

It isn’t fair to shut me out
it’s written on your face
something hurts inside of you —
your grief chokes up the place.

So tell me, tell me, tell me please —
the truth and nothing less —
why do you weep — what is the cause
of such intense distress?

HOW BIG?

How big is big?
How small is small?
And who’s to judge?
We think it’s all
just up to us —
how we compare
to harvest mice
or polar bears.

Yet to a beetle
mice are giants
and bears have no
idea of science —
the only measurement
they know
is footprints marking
miles of snow.

The whale is huge —
gargantuan —
when fully grown
dwarfs a man
who seems a monster
to the gnat
and other bugs
we squirt stuff at.

And elephants
are quite a size
and heavy, too —
it’s no surprise
they’re dangerous
but have no claws
unlike the died-out
dinosaurs...

who would have made
us all look small —
however wide
or long, or tall —
we’ve learnt from fossils
that occur
what size of big
the biggest were.

No zoo for them
but a museum
where people go
and pay to see ’em —
stand and stare
get quite reflective
and put this size thing
in perspective.

COMEUPPANCE

I wasn’t nice to Henry —
I tied him to a tree
because he played with Tom and Ben
and everyone but me.

He said I was a bully
and when I set him free
he threatened to tell teacher
but that didn’t worry me.

I boasted — said I didn’t care —
I wasn’t scared one bit —
I laughed and pushed him in the mud
I tore his football kit.

He didn’t tell our teacher
but by the school’s main gate
I saw our sisters talking —
I guess that sealed my fate.

Now Henry’s big sis Sarah
is not a girl to cross —
she’s got a reputation —
she’s kind of like the boss.

And she explained in detail
as she rolled me in the dirt
that this was called ‘comeuppance’
then she ripped my new school shirt.

I sort of got her meaning
she made her point so well
I promised I’d apologise
and that I wouldn’t tell.

These days I’m nice to Henry
and quite like Sam and Ben
and sometimes I join in their game
I think we’re nearly friends.

DOING NOTHING

When they ask me what I’m doing
and I just answer “nothing”
they don’t believe me — get annoyed —
start frowning, sighing, tutting

like I must be doing something
and they’re absolutely sure
whatever I’ve been doing’s bad —
I should be punished for

not owning up, admitting what
I’m hiding with that word —
“nothing” is ridiculous —
“nothing” is absurd!

For nobody does nothing
quite so frequently as me —
nothing before breakfast,
nothing after tea.

I haven’t got a hobby,
I never watch TV,
instead, I sit and wonder —
why do they pick on me?

Perhaps, next time they ask me,
I’ll tell them something new
because they’ll never understand
that nothing’s what I do!


BAT CHAT

I’m a barbastelle bat
I flutter and flap
and spend most of my time in the dark
I hunt the night skies
catch midges and flies
and I sleep in a tree in the park.

’Though I’m only a bat
it’s unfortunate that
some people are scared I might bite ’em
I look creepy and black
and in films I attack
so everyone screams and gets frightened.

But I’m just a shy bat —
a real quiet sort of chap —
imagine a mouse with big wings on
and my appetite’s small
I don’t drink blood at all
and I’m not made of rubber with strings on.

I am simply a bat
and I promise you that
I’ve no horribly gruesome intentions
so unless you’re a moth
it is quite safe to scoff
for the vampire is mostly invention.

I’m a rare kind of bat
so don’t hassle or trap —
all you humans should try to protect me
if you see me flit by
please don’t shriek, yell or cry
for it’s sure to freak out and upset me.

I’m a sensitive bat
and I’m hoping this chat
will help get these fears off my chest
a quick word in your ear
might make it all clear
us bats are endangered unless

you understand that
horror movies aren’t fact
and people are way too suspicious
I get quite perplexed
when they cover their necks
a fresh insect is much more delicious!

PLAYING PIRATES

We’ve been playing Spanish pirates —
we’re rough and tough and mean
I’m one-eyed Jack the Fearless
my old parrot’s blue and green
he’s been perching on my shoulder
so my t-shirt’s far from clean.

For hours we have sailed due east
with Mad Thomas at the wheel
on the look out for adventure
and some bags of gold to steal
(and some food — for hungry pirates
need to snatch a tasty meal.)

Our boat’s really a cardboard box
we got from Mad Tom’s Mum
we made a wicked paper flag
with skull and crossbones on
and pretended that our lemonade
was really pirate rum.

Tom suddenly cried “Ship Ahoy!” —
his sister had come home
and didn’t know it’s dangerous
to sail strange seas alone —
we stole her sweets and tied her up
then rolled her in the foam!

But Tom’s Mum came and rescued her
and said “That’s quite enough! —
Even pirates have their rules,
so don’t play quite so rough!”
We had to hand back all the sweets
(except the ones we’d sucked.)

So now we’re starving and fed up —
we’ve sailed the ocean wide
and found no treasure — not one jewel
nor ounce of gold we’ve spied
maybe the time has come when we
should give up and decide...

                tomorrow we’ll play something else!

SEA DREAMS

I wish I was a mermaid
with a super swishy tail —
then I’d swim the seven oceans
with the singing humpback whale.

I would make a starfish garden
build a little coral house
keep a pair of clever catfish
and a deep sea diving mouse.

I’d plant cockle shells and mussels
rows of limpets by the score
have a nesting box for oysters
strings of pearls around my door.

I’d have lots of friendly neighbours
who I’d chat to every day
I’d be kind to lonely lobsters
but keep nosy sharks at bay.

I’d hold parties for the turtles
teach the spider crabs to knit
help the octopus make doilies
with a seaweed crochet kit.

We’d have fern arranging sessions
and the squids could use their ink
for seahorse drawing classes —
it’s amazing when I think

of that world under the water —
all those possibilities —
Oh I wish I was a mermaid
so I could explore the sea!

LABELS

Gary’s got new trainers,
Tommy’s got some, too —
they’re really cool, with silver stripes
on bright metallic blue.

I’d kind of like a new pair —
my ones are old and not
half so neat as Charlie’s,
whose Nike shoes are hot.

And even Sam has Reeboks,
although they’re second hand
and not as flash as Barney’s —
his dad’s quite rich and grand

and drives a posh Mercedes,
and smokes a big cigar,
so Barney gets the very best
and thinks he is a star.

Poor Benny wears black plimsolls —
at home the money’s tight —
says labels aren’t important.
I think maybe he’s right.

LEOPARD CAKE

If leopards ever sampled cake
they would never find the crumbs
that dropped — lost among
their camouflaging spots...

and they would likely itch
more than a little bit —
these morsels caught
between their furry folds

might tickle and infuriate
so for their uncertain temper’s sake
hungry leopards in the wild
avoid eating cake.

SING A SONG

Sing a song of starlight
a pocketful of dreams
the sky is full of angels
how bright the magic seems
the roofs with snow all glisten
the moon’s so clear and high
like a shiny silver button
or a pale and spooky eye.

Hum a tune to shadows
when night is cold and dark
and fog hangs by the river
fills the playground in the park
where ghouls and ghosties listen
hog the dampness as they lurk
music interrupts their haunting
and most other creepy work.

So whistle when you’re nervous
but carol when you’re glad
especially at Christmas
or the birthday you’ve just had
and when it comes to bedtime
go sing yourself to sleep
like the birds lulled in the treetops
or the fish who bubble deep.

SHELL

We visit Grandma — she looks sad
and doesn’t smile or speak
she doesn’t know us — me or Dad —
although we come each week.

There’s times when she will sit and sigh
eyes fixed upon the floor
not moving when we say goodbye
and walk back through the door.

She’s in some daydream — years away
(that’s sort of what they said)
she’s been confused since the sad day
poor Grandpa Joe dropped dead.

I miss them both — while life goes on
I find it hard to tell
which is worse — dear Grandpa gone
or Grandma just a shell.

GOOD COMPANIONS

Said the bunny to the kitten —
“I’m a bunny — how d’you do?”
The kitten, playful, answered “I’m
a bunny rabbit, too!”

The bunny looked her up and down
he thought her face was sweet
but kindly pointed out she lacked
a bunny rabbit’s feet.

Perplexed, the pretty kitten sat
and washed her dainty paws
while bunny groomed his fluffy coat
and licked between his claws.

At last the bunny spoke again
“I’m guessing you’re a kitten —
my theory’s quite a simple one
                if you’ve an ear to listen...

You don’t eat dandelions or hay
but dine on meat or fish
and there’s another giveaway —
see — ‘Pussy’ on your dish!”

Kitten blinked her big blue eyes
and agreed he must be right
for ’though they both looked small and cute
they weren’t that much alike.

So, while Kitten pounced and chased about
Bunny sniffed and pondered —
chewing on a carrot top
long and hard he wondered...

There was no reason he could see —
all differences apart —
they shouldn’t mix — at least be pals —
this seemed a hopeful start.

“Hey, Kitty!” Bunny hopped across
and nuzzled at her ear.
She stopped her playing while he told
the jist of his idea...

Inseparable, the two became
and bucking Nature’s trends
bonded and from that day on
were loyal and lifelong friends.

MY ROOM — A WARNING

No one comes in my room —
it’s private — so keep out —
and don’t think you can just sneak in
when nobody’s about!

Mum does a bit of cleaning
but doesn’t touch my stuff,
she hoovers round and dusts a bit,
collects odd socks and fluff,

but never opens cupboards
or pokes or prods or pries —
she knows what I have hidden’s
not fit for grown-up eyes...

Now I don’t want to scare you,
but things can get grotesque,
so curb your curiosity —
it’s really for the best,

and heed the sign pinned on my door —
I wrote it very clear:
NO ENTRY — WIZARD TRAINING ZONE:
DARK FORCES LURK IN HERE.

A SECRET PLACE

I’ve just come back from being gone
and when they ask me where
I scratch my head and vaguely point
to some place over there.

And when they question what it’s called —
this land so far away —
I rack my brain and shrug because
I really cannot say.

There are no sign posts where I go
there are few stars to guide me
I wander down the nearest path
and trust the map inside me.

And every minute that I spend
can seem more like an hour
for magic grows in every tree
and shines from every flower.

It is forever summer there
beneath those cloudless skies
and nothing nasty happens there
and no one ever dies.

No grown-ups come to spoil my fun
no big kids bully me
it’s never bedtime, there’s no school —
I’m absolutely free!

So I won’t say just where it is —
not the exact location —
but keep the secret safely locked
in my imagination.

GREEN MAN

There is a Green Man in the wood
his hair is full of leaves
his fingers are long skinny twigs
he hides inside the trees

but I have seen him once or twice —
glimpsed his berry eyes
peering at me through the bark
and guess that his disguise

is just so he can guard the oaks,
the elms and silver birches,
watch out for those who cut and burn
Mother Nature’s churches

and he protects the sapling beech,
the hazel and the holly —
I’ve seen his face in picture books
and he looks kind of jolly

for he’s the spirit of the wood —
he’s very old and wise
and he knows every bird and bush
he has a thousand eyes

and he will feel the branch go crack
and sense the tree’s in pain
he’ll curse such vandals with one stare
and send them all insane.

So when you’re playing in the wood
be careful what you do
don’t ever think you are alone —
the Green Man’s watching you!

SEA STORIES

The sea’s cold lips
curl white with pain
they suck on rocks
draw back again
its quick wet tongue
flicks sand and spray
just listen close —
you’ll hear it say...

                I crunch the bones
                of sailors drowned
                I chew on stones
                and lick them round
                I spit them out
                or swallow whole
                to feed dark hungers
                soothe my soul.

The sea’s thin voice
whines all night long —
it’s part lament
part victory song —
it tells old secrets
whispers, cries
howls its madness
sobs and sighs...

                I sink your ships
                rip up their sails
                I whip up storms
                blow salt-breath gales
                I wield great power
                and my rule
                is often fickle
                sometimes cruel...

The sea’s high tides
reach up the wall
erode the cliff —
waves bite and gnaw
and inch by inch
it eats away
each stubborn edge
grown soft as clay...

                I hiss my stories
                taunt the moon
                my rising flood
                will cover soon
                the fields and cities
                ’til men wish
                they could go back
                to being fish.

FRIENDLESS

I haven’t got a lot of friends —
in fact I haven’t any
except for bats who share my cave
though lately there’s not many

and they don’t really count because
I’ve noticed them avoid me
and even when I say hello
they flap past and ignore me.

There’s spiders but they’re really quiet —
I’ve never heard them speak.
They hang around all dangly-legged
but utter not one squeak.

Last week a rat came visiting
but once he’d sniffed the air
decided that he wouldn’t stop
inside a dragon’s lair

even though there’s loads of room —
I’d welcome company —
I’m guesing he just didn’t like
the awful smell of me.

It’s not as if I never wash
or polish my red scales
and I am most particular
at cleaning teeth and nails

and yet no matter what I do
my cave smells strange and sickly —
in fact there is a dreadful pong
so passers-by leave quickly.

They glimpse a pile of mouldy bones
and even though I smile
they can’t see I’m a friendly chap
and always run a mile!

THE CAT, THE WIZARD AND THE WICKED PIRATE

Black Jake he was a pirate proud —
the scourge of seven seas
his ship was called the Gyspy Queen
and all her crew got fleas.

They made Jake itch, they made him scratch
and bang his wooden leg
he swore the vessel had been cursed
by a cat called Pretty Peg.

Now Peg was once a wizard’s cat
who got the urge to roam
she stowed away one moonlit night
and made Jake’s ship her home.

The first mate, Bill, discovered her
and said “What ’ave we ’ere? —
A lucky cat!” He let her lap
the last drops of his beer.

But when Jake heard he wasn’t pleased
and went red in the face
and shouted sure he didn’t need
“no moggie ’round the place!”

For pirates should be fierce and strong
and cats made Black Jake sneeze —
they made him gasp and wipe his eyes
his voice became a wheeze.

He didn’t trust those wide green eyes
he hated such soft fur
he shook and coughed and thought of ways
he could be rid of her.

For Jake was hard and cruel and mean
his heart was black with spite
he planned to toss her overboard
one dark and stormy night.

But Bill, the first mate, fed her fish
and played with Pretty Peg
he made a bed for her inside
an empty powder keg.

And all the time Bill was about
he thwarted Jake’s cruel plan
until a sudden accident
killed off the kind old man.

He had a pirate’s funeral —
they buried him at sea
and fired the cannon overhead
while Jake smiled secretly...

That night he took the powder keg
with Peg inside asleep
and hurled it hard with all his might
far out into the deep.

With no remorse, not one regret
the wicked deed was done
and battered by the stormy seas
the Gypsy Queen sailed on.

The powder keg bobbed like a cork
it floated through the waves
at last it washed upon a beach
so Pretty Peg was saved!

The journey home was very long —
a year passed, maybe more
it was a thin, bedraggled Peg
who found the wizard’s door.

And when he heard the tale she told
(he knew cat language well)
he threatened he would send Black Jake
and all his crew to Hell!

But then he thought a plague of boils
or a really vile disease
might be a better punishment —
’til Peg suggested fleas!

The wizard searched through all his spells —
the nastiest he had —
until he found the very one
to make Jake hopping mad!

He conjured up an insect curse
and sent it wrapped in fog
addressed to Black Jake and his crew —
the murderous sea-dog!

Like drops of rain the fleas fell down
and hopped around the ship
they found the pirates — one by one
the crew began to twitch

but most of them were drawn to Jake
where he was tucked in bed
hundreds jumped into his bunk
and on his blood they fed.

The more he scratched, the more he itched
he couldn’t sleep or rest
they burrowed underneath his wig
they gathered in his vest.

His breeches were a breeding ground
fleas hatched out in his hat
and miserably he rubbed his bites
while blaming Peg the cat.

At last it got too much for him —
he threw the porthole wide
and swearing loudly at the sky
he took a desperate dive.

And as he sank the crew on deck
gawped and then they cheered
as all the pesky fleas hopped off
and like magic, disappeared.

Down on the seabed cold and dark
Jake’s rotting bones prove that
however proud a pirate is
he can’t out-smart a cat!

ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS

A cautionary tale is one
that warns — ’though it may sound like fun
to launch a rocket by the shed
there’s every chance you’ll end up dead’.

*

Example: There was once a boy
whose aunt bought him the latest toy —
a rocket kit like on TV —
she’d wrapped the present carefully
but forgotten as she tied
to put the ‘how to’ notes inside.

Now Colin was the careless sort —
he ripped the paper off she’d bought
and scattered rocket on the floor
(just guessing what each bit was for)
and started building, glued it tight
quite sure he’d worked it out all right.

But when he’d finished there remained
a final piece, so Colin blamed
the manufacturer and grinned
and tossed the odd bit in the bin
without a second thought or doubt
it might be wise to check it out.

He planned to launch the rocket soon —
precisely on the next full moon
when he would wait ’til after school
to fill the tanks with rocket fuel
in preparation for the flight
and start the countdown late at night.

The great day came and Colin ran
as fast as any plump boy can
home from school, skipped most of tea
and waited dead impatiently.
His aunt with friends was playing bridge
and left a note pinned on the fridge

with clear instructions biroed blue —
what Colin could and couldn’t do
while she was out — But oh guess what?
Her nephew just ignored the lot!
And when he should have been in bed
was sneaking round the yard instead!

He found a can of paraffin
and topped it up with Auntie’s gin
and filled the rocket’s tanks right up
adding slowly, cup by cup,
old paint remover and for luck
some liquid fertilizer muck.

The moon rose up. The count began...
4 3 2 1 — a muffled bang
a blinding spark, a rush, a roar
the bolt flew off the coal shed door
ignition on, all systems go
the rocket wobbled to and fro

and then the sections, one by one
exploded like a firing gun.
Someone screamed and in the din
Colin realized it was him
as up he flew, caught by the blast
and saw the whole world flashing past.

It must have been an awesome view
but where he landed no one knew.
He left behind two well-scorched socks
and a battered empty rocket box.
Much later when his aunt got home
and saw the signs, she telephoned

all those she knew with telescopes
her rapidly decreasingly hopes
of finding Colin safe and well
were due to the odd burning smell
that lingered near the ruined shed —
her nephew was most likely dead.

The skies were searched to no avail
for no one saw his vapour trail —
a tiny UFO, Colin raced —
half boy, half rocket, into space.
Since then, his aunt’s felt really bad
knowing, carelessly, she had

left out the leaflet that showed how
the rocket should be made, and now
she’d found a piece to her dismay
that Colin must have thrown away!
A safety switch that, wired in tight,
should guarantee a smoother flight.

No going back — what’s done is done
she lectures all the kids who come
to see where Colin vanished from
on dangerous toys. She is quite glum —
insists instructions must be read
or else they, too, will end up dead!

LOW CALORIE BLUES

Mum’s put us on a diet
she says we’re overweight —
we can’t have sweets or chocolate
doughnuts, crisps or cake.

We’re not allowed spaghetti
burgers or baked beans
and pizza’s off the menu
and so are chips, it seems.

Real butter is a no-no —
it’s low-fat from now on
and no fry-ups for breakfast
Dad’s will to live’s near-gone.

A working man like him, he says
needs plates of proper grub
the moment Mum has turned her back
he sneaks off down the pub.

So it’s muesli or bran flakes
orange juice or nought —
and given such a boring choice
we’d rather go without.

School dinners smell delicious
now my lunchbox really sucks —
the crackers taste like cardboard —
wouldn’t feed it to the ducks!

And I’m sick to death of salad
steamed vegetables and fish
I hate the sight of lentils
Oh I wish, I wish, I wish...

there was some way of going back
to three square meals a day
I dream of battered cod and chips
TV meals on a tray

ice cream and jelly, apple pie
jam roly poly pudding
and all the things that Mum forbids
and fails to see the good in.

We sat up really late one night —
me and my brother, Dan
we’re both as desperate as can be
so we thought up a plan...

This Mother’s Day we bought our Mum
an artificial plant
not fondant creams like last year —
it’s her fault that we can’t.

She looked quite disappointed
when she undid the box
and found a potted pansy
and not her favourite chocs.

We noticed then at dinner
she left her brussel sprouts
and hardly touched the carrot soup —
we’re sure she’s having doubts.

The low-cal blues have got her —
she’s slowly giving in
we caught her gazing sadly
at the empty biscuit tin.

Not long now ’til it’s over
and we can shout hooray!
when Dad rings up to order us
a chinese take-away!

HOW TO CHOOSE A PET

Come in the pet shop, look around
see what the critters do —
stand and watch them through the bars
while some of them watch you.

Remember the small furry ones
are often keen to bite —
their teeth are sharp, their brains are small
they’re really not too bright

and mostly they just eat and sleep
run round in wheels and chew
keep everyone awake all night —
and then they’ll all blame you.

Reptiles are quite interesting
but lizards cost a packet
parrots squawk and parakeets
kick up an awful racket.

Puppies need a daily walk —
that’s no good if you’re lazy
a chipmunk loose around the house
would drive your mother crazy

and a spider’s bound to spook her
so is any kind of snake —
it’s best not to upset her with
the final choice you make.

You’re pretty safe with goldfish —
you’d hardly know they’re there
but they’re not much fun to talk to —
they just mouth at you and stare.

I could suggest the perfect pet —
it’s rare and rather shy —
invisible to all except
its keeper’s watchful eye.

It never bites, it’s cheap to feed
not troublesome to own —
it’s everything that you could want
and free to a good home.

JEFFREY-JOHN AND THE JOKE THAT BACKFIRED

Jeffrey-John Nathaniel Stokes
was fond of playing unkind jokes.
In fact he was a tiresome boy
who schemed and plotted to annoy
his family, and at weekends
he’d target visitors and friends.

His mother told him “Jeffrey-John
you’re just upsetting everyone —
poor Aunt Joanna’s still in bed
a dampened towel wrapped round her head.
Her screams were heard throughout the house
now take away that rubber mouse

and go and throw it in the bin.
It’s horrid! — Oh, and wipe that grin
off your smug, uncaring face —
I’m furious! You’re in disgrace!
So Jeffrey-John said “Please, Mama
I’m quite aware how cross you are —

I promise I’ll apologize
to Auntie Jo.” He blinked his eyes
and squeezed a tear with all his might —
he looked so solemn and contrite —
an act that fooled her. Thus deceived
her heart relented and believed.

Then JJ through the garden strolled
and picked a posy — red and gold —
of flowers for his ailing aunt.
He chose the finest from each plant
and tied them with a ribbon bow
done thoughtfully as if to show

how sorry he was for the trick
that scared her so and made her sick.
She’d never guess there lurked beneath
one lush and rather splendid leaf
and camouflaged amongst the green —
the biggest bug he’d ever seen.

She was asleep when he went in —
the sheets pulled tight up to her chin.
“Oh, Auntie, dear,” he whispered, then
“Wake up, old thing!” he said again.
She slowly opened one pale eye
and gave a deep and painful sigh

“What do you want?” Her voice was harsh
but Jeffrey-John just let that pass —
“I’ve brought you these!” He laid them down
beside her Chinese dressing gown
and ’though she’d judged him mean and vile
she gave the boy a toothy smile.

“Oh, aren’t they glorious!” she cried —
grabbed them up and then untied
the clever bow. The bug fell out —
she shrieked at once — a feeble shout
wavering and rather hoarse —
“You wicked boy! You’ve no remorse!”

The bug amidst such great alarm
now scuttled sharply up her arm
and sprang into her nest of hair
to disappear completely there.
Aunt Joanna clutched her head
rolled her eyes — and fell back dead!

JJ’s mother heard the fuss
and hurried in — she was nonplussed
to find such a bizarre tableau —
her aunt deceased and Jeffrey so
distraught — insanely babbling
the bug’s to blame — it wasn’t him!

How he changed from that day on —
the urge to play cruel pranks was gone —
he spent his time up in his room
a different child — a listless gloom
hung above him like a cloud
his posture poor, his shoulders bowed

from suffering a frightful curse —
recurring nightmares — but far worse —
nocturnal visits. Aunt Jo’s ghost
popped in to plague him, and to boast
that there was nothing he could do
to counter her heart-stopping “Boo!”

His family sent him away
to hospital — a good long stay —
some measure of the hopes they had
he might be cured and not go mad —
an institution grey and grim
where Aunt Jo’s ghost could lodge with him.

Thus sharing one depressing cell
they got to know each other well.
So spook and boy agreed at last
their differences were in the past —
for each had learned, when scaring folk —
enough’s enough — a joke’s a joke!

TWINKLE TWINKLE

Twinkle twinkle little star
our teacher told us what you are
and now your magic has all gone
what are we s’posed to wish upon?

Up above the world so high
a lump of rock that’s cold and dry —
all burnt out — a long-dead spark
that twinkles on across the dark.


CHASING DRAGONS

First off, Jack caught a glimpse of tail —
curled underneath a chair
but when he got down on his knees
to look — it wasn’t there.

Then across the room he saw
two nervous coal-black eyes
glinting as they peered at him
Jack thought it might be wise

to try and coax it in a box —
avoid small snapping teeth —
piled toys and clothes upon his bed
and slowly crawled beneath

and there it sat — all hunched up small
cleaning its red scales —
a baby dragon like they sell
as souvenirs from Wales.

It blinked at Jack and snorted twice
puffed a tiny flame
made a kind of warning growl
and disappeared again.

Then up beside the ceiling light
it fluttered round and round
wings flapping like a dizzy moth
it spiralled back to ground

and lay in an exhausted heap
mewing like a kitten
so Jack was brave and picked it up
and prayed not to be bitten.

At that moment, right outside
there was a dreadful roaring
as overhead a dragon pack
came swooping, gliding, soaring

and searching for an infant son
who’d recently gone missing —
the air grew dark and overcast
and full of anxious hissing.

Jack opened up the window and
as soon as one flew near,
he shouted ‘Hey! He isn’t lost —
your baby’s over here!’

The mother dragon paused mid-flight
and turned her massive head
stared at Jack with tearful eyes
sniffed a bit and said

‘You really are so very kind
and all of us are grateful —
the thought we’d never find our son
was absolutely hateful!”

‘Well, here he is!’ Jack held him up
the mother dragon took him
licked him with her long green tongue
then none-too-gently shook him

and scolded him in angry tones
tucked him in her pocket
then giving Jack a toothy grin
she shot off like a rocket.

And so the story ended well
but Jack has one regret —
no one believes he almost had
a dragon for a pet.


MARTIN THE MARTIAN

Mum says my brother is a little monster
and I’ve often thought that in a certain light
he looks a bit peculiar and scary
so it seems there is a chance she could be right.

He’s not like other babies — pink and noisy
he barely cries at all — just sleeps and stares
his eyes like inky saucers, seldom blinking
while he chews the heads off countless teddy bears.

Mum says he’s only teething, so it’s natural
but I have seen the gleam deep in his eyes
he’s practising for when he gets much bigger
and is busting out his baby-gro disguise.

In a few weeks, I doubt he’ll fit his buggy —
already he has one foot on the floor
has spooked the dog and frightened off our moggie
the local cats don’t come round any more.

And yesterday I watched him have his breakfast
and noticed two bumps poking through his hair —
I’m guessing that they’re horns — a subtle warning
he’s different and we should all beware.

I used to ask my mum where babies came from
but brother Martin’s given me a clue —
he’s from another planet — just mail order
and you can have a little monster, too!


BILLIE'S PETS

School 'Bring Your Pets' day recently gave cause for much concern
Some kids took hamsters, mice and snakes, our Billie just took germs
Which soon escaped, for no one saw the way they crept and crawled
On crayons and on pencils, along widowsills and walls...

At break, nobody had a clue how sneakily they slid
In lunchboxes and lingered there beneath each plastic lid
Spread round from grubby hand to hand, those bad bugs ran amok
Until a teacher, white as chalk, cried 'Quick - fetch Mrs. Mop!'

The Supercleaner flew in with her trusty bleach spray cocked
Zapped all around the classroom and had soon wiped out the lot
Then reminded all quite firmly, in hope no one forgets
Bacteria are nasty things and never make good pets!


FINISHING SCHOOL

Oh, you must be the new girl —
I’d welcome you but, hey!
I’m betting you won’t stick around —
the smart ones get away.

The teachers are all vampires
and Matron’s a right ghoul
so none of them are human
and lessons here are cruel.

The janitor’s a zombie —
he’s got this graveyard smell
doesn’t speak but stares a lot
he’s kind of slow as well.

It’s strictly orphans only —
we don’t have Open Day
there is no board of governors
no ‘friends’ or PTA.

The dormitories are dungeons —
they lock us in at night
the staff room’s like a blood bank
if rumour has it right.

But you look strong and healthy
with roses in your cheeks
if you can outrun Matron
you may survive for weeks.

Life here is kind of draining
if you know what I mean
the timetable’s unusual
and most of us aren’t keen

to learn about dissection
and ritual sacrifice —
for cutting up your classmates
just doesn’s seem quite nice!

And cookery is gruesome —
take stake and kidney pud —
the donor’s dead unhappy
and the stake’s a stick of wood!

Well, I guess you get the picture —
the school’s under a curse
for the site was once a plague pit
so the ghosts had got here first

and they sit around like squatters
with their crazy hollow eyes
so we put up with their wailing
and repeated dying sighs.

It all takes some getting used to —
just be sure to keep your head
and avoid all close encounters
with the resident undead.

You’re looking rather nervous
and maybe you suspect
what ‘finishing’ is all about —
we get it in the neck!

The evening sun is going down —
there goes the dinner bell —
who’s on the menu, Heaven knows —
so best you run like Hell!


SHADOW FOLK

Can I ask a question, Miss? —
I need to get this right —
Where do shadows go to when
you switch off the light?

Do they hide in cupboards
or do they skulk instead —
slip as quick as anything
beneath the chest or bed?

Maybe they freeze and stay where
they were when there was light —
perhaps they can’t move on their own
and have to wait all night

‘til someone wakes, gets out of bed
and turns the light back on —
for it would seem peculiar
to find they’d up and gone.

Or, do they rush back suddenly —
too quick for us to spot
they’ve been off doing other things —
some other life they’ve got.

I sometimes think I hear them run
(or maybe it’s a mouse)
for something makes the floorboards creak
when darkness fills the house.

And sometimes, when the moonlight
shines through the curtain’s chink
I catch a grey shape moving —
dissolving in a blink.

Yes, I know I could be dreaming
but my question’s really this —
have you seen the shadow folk ? —
So, what’s the answer, Miss?


CUCKOO

I’m not a bit like Mummy
or Daddy (can’t they guess?)
but growing up quite different —
I’m a cuckoo in their nest.

And I’m nothing like my brothers —
I’m such a greedy brat
I gobble all their dinner
so they starve while I get fat.

It’s just my basic nature —
I feel hungry all the time
and so I push and shove them out —
claim every scrap as mine.

I know that I’m adopted —
beneath my downy vest
I’m not a proper robin
but a cuckoo in their nest.

IN THE DARK

Mum! There’s something near my bed —
I’m sure I heard it breathing.
Mum! I think I felt it move —
I know I wasn’t dreaming.

Mum! There is a funny smell —
like something old and rotten.
Mum! You said you’d tuck me in —
I guess you’ve just forgotten.

Mum! I think I saw its tail —
I’m getting really frightened.
Mum! Could you just come and see
and put the landing light on?

Mum! My throat is really sore —
I need some water please.
Mum! My rash is coming back
and I’ve got itchy knees.

Mum! The window’s rattling now —
the curtain’s started twitching.
Mum! There’s burglars breaking in —
that’s why I’m only whispering.

Mum! I’ve pulled the covers up
and made myself real tiny.
Mum! I’m hardly breathing now
I’m so afraid they’ll find me.

Mum, is that you? I’m shivering —
so tired I can’t stop yawning.
Oh Mum! Your hands are freezing cold.
How long is it ’til morning?

PICNIC GUIDE

If you go down to the woods today
you’d better not go alone
but take your mother, your older brother
remember your mobile phone

for Jeremy Cole went on his own
and met a bear who ate him whole
and all his clothes except the sole
of one of his new school shoes.

So, if you go down to the woods today
take all of your friends along —
when that bear comes out, scream loud and shout
that eating people is wrong!

Most bears who picnic in the wood
take honey sandwiches, sticky but good
and know all boys are full of bones — too chewy!

Beware the bear who ate Jeremy —
he’s hungry still and wants his tea —
the boy was small so there’s lots more room
in his great big hairy tum.

If you must go down to the woods today
take somebody else along —
maybe your sister — he couldn’t miss her—
a bear’s sense of smell is strong!

He’ll think she’s good enough to eat —
for girls are tender and taste sweet
he’ll never guess he’s in for a big surprise!


MOON FACES

Is there a man in the moon? —
I’ve looked and tried to find
a face — an eye, a nose or chin
of any human kind.

The moon’s so far away
it’s hard to recognize
any person peering through
miles and miles of skies

his pumpkin head death-pale
and full of yellow light
floating up in space above
a blank face in the night

riding on the wind
skimming tree and roof
curious to see the world
but silent and aloof...

On clear nights I have searched
the shadows on his skin
while he just stares on back at me
coldly wondering.

HERE LIES...

Here lies the body of Mildred Butts
who died from fatal paper cuts.
She never spoke, relied on notes —
the more replied, the more she wrote.

At last, to all her friends she sent
news from everywhere she went.
She’d heaps of envelopes to lick
with glue so foul it made her sick

but worse, the edges cut her tongue
and blood and ink began to run
and smudged her lines so no one read
her final words — and now she’s dead.

HOMELESS

There’s an old man in the park, Mum
he watches while we play
he’s still there after dark, Mum
he’s never far away.

He’s lonely, I can tell, Mum
and it really bothers me
I don’t think he is well, Mum
he’s thin as thin can be.

They say he is a tramp, Mum
with nowhere else to go
and the days are cold and damp, Mum
so somebody should know.

He’ll catch his death out there, Mum
and Christmas will be soon
he’s nothing warm to wear, Mum
could he stay in our spare room?

I guess the answer’s no, Mum
I’d hoped you wouldn’t mind
the weather forecast’s snow, Mum
so couldn’t you be kind —

and let him have the shed, Mum?
Or I’m afraid he’ll freeze
I’d help him make a bed, Mum
so think about it — please!

Is that too much to ask, Mum?
So what is it you fear?
Why can’t I take a flask, Mum?
Why shouldn’t I get near?

Well, I don’t understand, Mum
the world is so unfair
he’s just a homeless man, Mum
and somebody should care.

RECIPE FOR INSECT STEW

Earwig eyebrows
spiders’ ears
greenfly elbows
woodlouse tears

fresh stings from bees
stag beetle legs
grasshopper knees
and glow worm eggs

chopped millipede
dried ladybugs
some peppered fleas
the slime of slugs

mosquitos make
a crunchy broth
just add a shake
of midge and moth

pickled weevils
give it ‘zing’ —
a really evil
flavouring

let it fester
stir the pot
serve with ants’nest
on the top.


CREATIVITY

In Art Class:

I don’t want to draw a bowl of fruit
a flower or a fairy —
I want to paint an alien
all green and hugely hairy
with seven eyes — four pink, three black
six arms like metal flippers
a dozen legs in leather socks
his toes in Martian slippers.

In English Class:

I don’t want to write a poem, Miss
I’d rather write a story
about a vampire in the woods
all monsterful and gory —
how he could turn into a bat
with an awesome set of choppers
until a slayer came along
and staked him good and proper.

In Geography Class:

I don’t want to learn about Brazil
Australia or France
what crops are grown in India
or how the Turkish dance
I want to draw another map
of somewhere else instead —
a really wild exciting place
I pictured in my head.

In Drama Class:

I don’t want to stand here and pretend
that I’m some kind of tree
I told my teacher that I can’t —
she shook her head at me
and later, in my school report
revealed her irritation —
“Sam is capable but slow
and lacks imagination.”


BARNEY AND MISTER SCRATCHIT

My brother Barney bought a mouse
and named it Mister Scratchit,
the mouse escaped — got clean away
and nobody could catch it.

The rodent rampaged through the house,
it nibbled, gnawed and worried
holes in almost everything —
it shredded, chewed and scurried

from room to room and left a trail
of damage and destruction
until our dad decided he’d
invest in pest reduction.

Not Rentakill but Dialadope —
the bait was cheddar, nobbled
so mouse would snack then fall asleep
once the first chunk was gobbled.

But Mister Scratchit sniffed the cheese,
suspicious and unsure,
then flicked his tail and darted off
to go and live next door.

Now Barney has another pet —
a goldfish known as Bubble —
who’s not quite so much fun as mouse
but has been far less trouble.


ZACHARIAH

My name is Zak —
a witch’s cat —
I’m lean and mean and shifty
I’m fond of mice
they’re small but nice
I wish they weren’t so nifty.

I’ve sampled toad
squashed on the road
I’ve nibbled newts and lizards
and once a bat —
I hated that —
it stuck right in my gizzard.

My witch believes
all felines need
a truly balanced diet —
she boils up slugs
assorted bugs
and thinks I ought to try it.

But would you
eat insect stew ?
I never touch her cooking
I tip the lot
back in the pot
the instant she’s not looking.

That’s why I’m thin —
all bones and skin —
my purr a hollow rumble
I hunt all night
but mice take fright —
they hear my stomach grumble.

I sometimes wish
for bowls of fish —
I dream of ratatouille
with juicy rat
all plump and black
their tails all long and chewy!

Frustrating how
my loud miaow
when I jump up beside her
provokes a grin —
she’ll find a tin
and toss me a fresh spider!

I really fear
I’ll disappear —
completely fade away
unless she gets
some tasty pets
and puts them in my way!

I’d love a mole —
I’d eat him whole —
a hamster or canary —
just anything
with goodness in —
all tender, warm and hairy.

She calls me Zak
a nickname that
is easier for yelling
the witch can’t cook
or read a book —
she’s terrible at spelling.

I’m Zachariah —
brain on fire
from hunger, and I’m growling
’cos I just heard
a little bird...
excuse me, I’m off prowling!


BIG BOYS

I don’t want to play with the big boys any more —
I’m bashed about — my hands and knees are sore
my t-shirt’s torn and if that’s not enough
they don’t play fair — they’re really mean and rough.

They pick on me just because I’m young
and call me names — it’s really not much fun
because they kick and shove me when they find
I’ve got the ball — they’re stupid and unkind.

Okay, I’m short and skinny but so what?
I’m quicker than the other kids they’ve got —
and given half a chance I’d show them all
the way to tackle, pass and aim that ball.

But they won’t listen — typical of boys
who won’t let other people share their toys
they know it all — they think they own the world
and what could I know? — I am just a girl!


WITCH-SILVER

A stray cat came to my front door
miaowing — so I let her in
she left wet footprints on my floor
then sat and washed from tail to chin.

Her eyes were green, her tongue was pink
her coat was thick and soft like silk —
the same all over — black as ink
I poured her a small dish of milk.

She chose a cushion for her bed
and went to sleep beside the fire
I talked to her and stroked her head
and told her all my heart’s desire.

Next morning, early, as dawn broke
someone knocked upon my door —
a figure bent beneath a cloak
a voice I’d dreamed the night before

who called the cat by some strange name
and puss ran out to greet the crone
then they both turned, their look the same
next moment I was on my own...

I’d pondered on it all that week
but told no one, when a grey bird
with something hanging from its beak
flew through my window and I heard

the witch’s voice purr in my ear
“these seven silver coins can buy
those secret things your heart holds dear...”
her breath a ragged, haunting sigh.

I hid the pouch of silver coins
safe out of sight, without delay —
stashed them where the cross beam joins
the bird croaked thrice and flapped away.


Dark magic seeped — bewitched my house
my mind grew weak with dread that soon
the witch would come — play cat and mouse —
but most I feared the next full moon.

When it was due I locked the door
shut fast the windows streaming rain
I sprinkled herbs across the floor
the wind died down, blew hard again...

I heard a mew, I heard a laugh
the coins fell from their hiding place —
a sudden bang, an icy draft
and at the window pressed a face.

The hag stared in, the coins had rolled
around my feet — I grabbed them up
in panic — for my blood ran cold —
and hurled them out as midnight struck.

There was a screech — a howl of pain
a blinding flash of purple light
the witch rose with her clothes aflame
I trembled and felt sick with fright.

She hurtled, burning through the air
her broomstick like a comet’s trail
growing fainter as I stared
an echo lingered of her wail.

And where the coins had struck the soil
seven silver serpents sprang —
glittering, each scaly coil
sharp as steel, each curving fang.

They reared and hissed and spat their hate
then out of nowhere courage came
so I attacked them, didn’t wait
but ended that nightmarish game

with neon swords of light that flashed
and thunder roaring overhead
the serpents lunged, the storm-blades slashed
until all seven snakes lay dead.

As I watched, their skins grew dull —
withered as the flesh decayed
then their bones, and last each skull
crumbled, melted clean away...

The spell was broken, furthermore
since that strange night I never let
an unknown cat inside my door
in case it is some witch’s pet.

It was a trick — I should have known
that kindness is its own reward
nor taken silver from that crone
for freely-given bed and board.


NO ADDITIVES

My mum’s a witch, I’m sure she is —
I know it from her cooking —
she adds bizarre ingredients
when no one else is looking.

Every mealtime’s a surprise —
we’re not sure what we’re eating —
I bet her steak and kidney pies
have more than normal meat in.

I thought I saw a bat wing once —
a small grey web of gristle —
it really put me off my tea
I also found a bristle —

a springy hair all thick and long
floating in my porridge
and it was black and we’re all blonde
so what that proves is horrid.

One day Mum said ‘just for a change
we’ll have a finger buffet’ —
that sounded way too weird and strange
I sneaked off to the café.

But on the menu, plain as plain
it said Toad-in-the-Hole
and I thought here we go again
and ordered a cheese roll.

Mum wants to try Hungarian
(that goulash stuff is lumpy)
so I’ve gone vegetarian
and even Dad’s turned grumpy.

She thinks it’s just a passing fad —
my fruit and salad diet —
but its the best defence I have
and other kids should try it

if they suspect their mum’s like mine —
too fond of kitchen magic —
try take-aways — phone Pizza line —
or dinner could turn tragic!


PET SHOP

How much is that spider in the window —
the one with the web full of flies?
How much is that spider in the window?
I do like its eight beady eyes.

I don’t want a gerbil or a hamster
or a budgie all feathered and green.
I don’t want a cute fluffy bunny
but a spider all hairy and mean.

So how much is that spider in the window?
It must be the biggest I’ve seen.
I just want that spider in the window
to scare people at Halloween.


PARTY TRICK

On Barney Summer’s birthday
he invited all his mates
but Barney hasn’t many friends —
just me and Robbie Bates
and Robbie’s sister Sarah
who took her cousin Joan
plus the boy who lives next door
who didn’t come alone
but brought along his favourite pet —
a lizard called Amanda
which magically had learned to talk
though few could understand her.

So Barney, Robbie Bates and me,
Joan, Sarah and Amanda
sat and had some birthday cake
on Barney’s back verandah
while James, the boy who lives next door
drew smoke rings with the candles
then we all passed the lizard round
and stroked her scaly handles.

Amanda blinked and gazed at us
she flicked her purple tongue
and concentrated all the while
on cleaning up the crumbs
then in a croaky voice she said
‘shall we play in the garden?’
I was dumbstruck, Robbie gasped
and Sarah answered ‘Pardon?’

Barney almost choked himself
and Joan went white as chalk
James looked smug and quietly said
‘I told you lizards talk!’
For no one saw his lips move
so the clever trick we missed —
he’s either a real wizard
or a great ventriloquist.


CHOCOLATES

Our great-granddad has a sweet tooth —
he has to have his chocs —
he hides them in the greenhouse
and scoffs them by the box.

Mum says he shouldn’t have them —
he’ll put on too much weight —
but great-granddad doesn’t listen
and says it’s far too late

to worry about diets
at his age — so why stop?
He taps his nose and whispers
and sends me down the shop.

We have this understanding
and it works perfectly —
I never spill the beans on him —
he never tells on me.

I sit and share his chocolates
most afternoons at four
he potters round his greenhouse
remembering the war

I’m the only one he talks to
I think he likes me best
for I’m allowed the orange creams —
great-granddad eats the rest.


GONE MISSING

Charlie’s not at school today
it feels strange and I miss him
although he’s not my boyfriend now
since I saw Alice kiss him.

For something happened yesterday
while playing in the park
and Charlie stayed out way too late —
’til it was nearly dark

and all the other kids had gone —
they left him on the swings
and we all know the park at night
is full of creepy things.

At first his mum and dad got cross
and then they called the police
who searched the park and found one shoe
and Charlie’s bright red fleece.

And now it’s in the newspapers
and on the tele live —
Charlie Miller’s not been seen
since yesterday at five.

No one knows for sure, of course
but some of us are guessing
what could have happened to our friend
’cos Charlie never listened

to warnings that he shouldn’t trust
or even speak to strangers —
they could be aliens or worse
and that’s the biggest danger.

I think a spaceship picked him up
for it seems really weird
one minute he was there and then
he went and disappeared.

We all hope soon they’ll bring him home —
back to his family
then he can tell us where he’s been
and solve the mystery.


MY POEM

I have a poem in me
and it’s trying to break out —
sometimes I feel it wriggle —
it moves and rolls about.

It pokes me and provokes me,
it mutters and it sighs,
it scratches with impatient feet
and makes appealing cries.

But when I picked my pencil up
quite ready to begin —
offered it a clean white page,
gave it an opening —

it got all shy and wouldn’t come,
it scuttled back inside —
I couldn’t pull the poem out
however hard I tried!

So I didn’t do my homework —
too bad, my teacher said,
that she couldn’t read my poem
when it’s still inside my head!