Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Worst Christmas

The worst Christmas
Was when Mum was in hospital
And Dad, bless him,
Made a right pig’s ear
Of the Christmas turkey.

On Christmas Eve he dressed up as Santa
Red coat, big bushy beard -
And Mum dressed up as a reindeer
Big antlers, red nose -

And it was all going so well
I was pretending to be asleep
As Dad crept in, when
Clatter clatter clatter
Mum fell off the roof.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All We Do at Christmas

All we do at Christmas
Is sit and watch TV
Mum and Dad and Sis and Gran
And Grandpapa and me

My best mate Bill, and all his lot
Play Christmas games and cards
Have quizzes and win prizes
Dress up and play charades

And Jenny’s family go to church
They’re Christians and they believe
She stays up late and goes to church
At midnight, Christmas Eve

And Jason, who’s a Muslim
And Margie, who’s a Jew
Still think about what Christmas means
But take a wider view

But we don’t do much thinking
We just sit and watch TV
There’s Mum and Dad and Sis and Gran
And Grandpapa and me

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven Stars

Seven stars are shining
As the sun falls from the sky
Six rooks dance their goodnight dance
And wish the day goodbye

Five bats skim the castle walls
Waiting for the bell
For soon the moon will break the news
It’s waited long to tell

Four owls leave the tower tall
Hungry to spread the word
To wit, to woo a mouse or two
In case you haven’t heard

Three horses in the courtyard
Beneath the flickering light
Two men exchange quiet glances
And ride into the night

And deep within the castle
In the centre of the keep
One maiden lies alone, alone
And tries to get to sleep

Monday, December 06, 2010

No Star Hotel

Never stay at the Heartbreak Hotel
Try the Travel Inn on the corner
If you stay at the Inn of Loneliness
Both the staff and the guests will ignore yah
For a weekend break that’s a bad mistake
Don’t say I didn’t warn yah
You’ll be so lonely you will cry

Likewise the Hotel California

Friday, November 26, 2010

Night Rainbow

Look at the colour
Of the colour
Of the colour

You said, in middle of the night

And woke up
And stumbled to the bathroom

By a rainbow

Friday, November 19, 2010

Uncle John and Auntie Clare

Uncle John
Is big and red and very, very loud
He argues with Mum a lot
About who should be running the country
He sells cars
He drove us at 100mph once

Auntie Clare
Is nervous
She sips tea like a hamster
And she says,
That’s enough, John!
And then Uncle John
Is very, very

Monday, November 15, 2010


Ed gave me his birthday badge
I gave Ed my moon rock
Ed gave me his juicy peach
I gave Ed my sock

Ed gave me his hamsters
Jimmy, Digs and Jack
Mum found them in my bedroom
And I had to give them back

Mum made Ed give my sock back
So I returned his peach
And Ed returned my moon rock
(I’d found it on the beach)

I returned Ed’s birthday badge
And Mum said, Good. That’s that.
She went downstairs to the kitchen
And I gave Ed our cat

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Credit Crunch

She melted his heart
She freezes his assets

Monday, November 08, 2010

Not Billy Collins

It is a tea pot
Not a saucepan on the gas ring
Bubbling and filling the kitchen
With a comforting steam

It is not the door
Waiting for the cook's entrance
And through which
Can be faintly heard
Chris Barber’s Cat Call

Nor is it the window
Where the sun and the moon
May be observed
Taking it in turns
To archly cross the sky

Nor is it the telescope
That stands in the hall
Its barrel dusty
And marked with the prints
Of children’s fingers
Like putty moons

Nor is it the garden path
Awaiting the careful tread
Of the poet Billy Collins

No, it is not Billy Collins
It is a tea pot

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Snake Propulsion

My mind
Is catapulted
From the ancient pool
To the waiting waterfall
By the stripy elasticated belt
With the snake buckle

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


When Mickey, our mouse,
Brought us a little
And left it on the doorstep?

A dead cat

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Perk of Being Mrs Wickins’ Cat

There’s milk and strokes
and somewhere warm
to sleep and scratch and think,
but the perk of being
Mrs Wickins’ cat
is the spider in the sink

The spider’s looking scary
and kicking up a stink.
Fetch Mrs Wickens. She’ll soon catch
the spider in the sink

Yes, I’m great at catching spiders,
my claw is lightning fast
I eat the legs one at a time
and save the head for last

There’s milk and strokes
and somewhere warm
to sleep and scratch and think,
but the perk of being
Mrs Wickins’ cat
is the spider in the sink

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Teacher said,
Leave out the the,
two too's one too too many
and and after the comma
should go after the any.

The the, the too -
and move the and
and that should make it flow.
Not that that, that that's fine -
but this that, that could go.

I said,
The the, the too, the and -
I would agree with you.
But I'm very fond of that -
this that and that that too.

Which that is that?
Is that this that?
Asked teacher with a grin.
Okay - but take that last in out
And leave that last out in.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after

Up Jack got and home did trot
As fast as he could caper
He went to bed to mend his head
With vinegar and brown paper

Jill was found still on the ground
By her Uncle Charlie
He took her back home to his shack
And fed her eggs and barley

It came to nought, said Jill, distraught
Oh why did my legs falter?
Said Charlie – Oh, did you not know
A tap turns on the water?

Meanwhile poor Jack (still on his back)
Was feeling proper poorly.
Said Doctor Green, Why, Germolene
Would work much better, surely?

Alas, alack, now poor old Jack
To death was soon succumbing
Jill said, said she, If only we
Had known about the plumbing

Monday, August 23, 2010


Somewhere a dog barks

As you gaze from the dark painting
Chin resting on your hand
Your own dog
Waits patiently

Friday, August 20, 2010


A wasp finds itself
Trapped inside my shirt
Escapes without harm

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


And the house is sleeping fitfully

The pine table and chairs in slumber deep
The bed cannot settle
And the dark corners are restless
The oak beams dream woody adventures from before our time
And a thin-limbed spider puzzles over the nature of porcelain

The clock
Whose tick-tocking is at odds
Tries to keep up

But we are not asleep
You have a finger down your throat
Bringing up the angel
Whose horse you feel is the culprit

And light
Unusually awakened
Stares, as if finding itself in a strange room for the first time
Momentarily bewildered
Its small buzzy followers summoned
to share an unexpected feast

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Birds at Stone

A fist of white touffeau rock
Falls on the red tiles

Two small, black birds
Dart across the cliff face
Hunting for insects
And singing


Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday's Child

Monday’s child selects
From her white wardrobe
A blue dress

Tuesday’s child dances
Across the playground
Heads the ball

Wednesday’s child worries
Three more days of maths
And counting

Thursday’s child decides
Her map of the world’s

Friday’s child donates
His Lego to the
Flood Appeal

Saturday’s child rises
Early for the best
Market place

Sunday’s child chases
The shadows of clouds
On the grass

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Teacher, Teacher

Teacher, Teacher,
Millicent Witt
Has hidden the hamster
In her P.E. kit

Teacher, Teacher,
Jeremy Pear
Has hidden Beth’s socks
And he won’t tell her where

Teacher, Teacher,
Alasdair Tup
Says these rhymes are contrived
And the names are made up

Friday, July 09, 2010

Low Flying Rabbits Ahead

Watch out for obstreperous elephants
Or fidgety fleas in your bed
There’s a bear on your chair – don’t stare! Beware
Low flying rabbits ahead

Be warned! Argumentative aardvarks
And the tigers haven’t been fed
When in doubt you must shout, There be dragons – watch out!
Low flying rabbits ahead

Caution – cantankerous catfish
There’s a dodo called Fred in the shed
And the mad fortune teller says, Take your umbrella
Low flying rabbits ahead

Be prepared for the lemur’s cruel laughter
But don’t forget what the old tortoise said
Life is fun. When in doubt – don’t worry about
Those low flying rabbits ahead

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Twilight deepens
In the graveyard
And the first cicadas sing

Moth’s quick shadow
On the gravestone
Human skull between its wings

The moth’s soft touch
Against your cheekbone
Fear is such a fragile thing

The harbinger
Glimpsed by moonlight
Human skull between its wings

Monday, June 14, 2010

Price List

For fun verse,
Shrieks and hollers

For lyrical flights
That know no bounds

For passionate prose
At Uncle Joe’s

For light verse and nonsense
That’s less intense

Write a poem
With me

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

After Words

When the nurse said
You may cry
bloodstained tears

My first thought was
how to fit
those two words

into a poem

Friday, June 04, 2010


A simple operation
As operations go
We make a tiny cut
Remove your cataracted lens
Slip in a new one

I am nervous. Several
trips to the loo. I’m cold
Eye drops dilate the eye
My pupil is a big, black yolk
I’m watching the clock

A porter takes me upstairs
A hot June day. The view –
Beyond white roofs, the sea
I’m on the table. Don’t cross your legs
The nurse chides gently

Drops anaesthetise my eye
A ring holds my eyelid
An injection numbs
Some things a patient rarely sees
His own procedure

I’m wired up. Peeps and hums
People bustle about
My face is covered
Lights dance before my blurred vision
I’m holding my breath

Breath evenly! And do not move,
It makes my job harder,
The surgeon says. Half way.
I concentrate on keeping still
Time crawls through shadows

A nurse holds my hand
A human connection
In that bright place of knives and chrome
It’s done, the surgeon says, It was tricky
I’m wheeled away

I’m back with Jill. The nurse
Brings us tea and toast
Instructions – keep your eye patch
on tonight. Four weeks of drops
Going home. Sunshine

Friday, May 07, 2010

Back Seat Driver

A life moves relentlessly
From frame to frame
I watch it from the back row
In the dark

The detective
Knows who the villains are
All he has to do is catch them

Soon a few loose ends
May or may not get tied up
Someone will make a witty comment
And the credits will roll

Then maybe I’ll watch the prequel
Or stumble out into the cold
Streets of reality

Maybe I’ll book a ticket
Stroll along a crowded beach
My sun hat at a jaunty angle

But I’m tired
And even though these seats are uncomfortable
I’m going to have a snooze

Wake me up when it’s all over

Monday, May 03, 2010

Pizza Express

Yes, another poem
In the Pizza Express series

Tuesday, eight o’clock
Newmarket High Street

It’s as quiet as the moon
I sip a large red wine and wait

The Sloppy Joe
Doesn’t want to show

They should rename it
Stroppy Joe

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Ernst Exhibition

Amidst the strange writing
And the astronomy
A woman lies
On the polished wooden floor
Of the gallery

This is not an artistic statement
She is ill
As I write this she may even
Be dead

The large gathering who,
Until a few minutes ago,
Were listening to the guide
Is confused

But most take the opportunity
To quietly view
The Ernst exhibits

Painterly backgrounds
With tiny letters
Sense or nonsense?
It’s too early to tell

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scarecrow Festival

Something unsettling
All those raggedy people
With glass eyes
And straw poking out of pockets

And as we left
We noticed
The crows
Hanging around on the street corner

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time Travel

They say we have no free will
Before we make a move
Before we think a thought
Our brains warm up the neurons
Prepare the muscles
Ready for the brain’s command.
Lifting a cup of tea.
Moving the blinds to glimpse the sunset
As though these small actions
Were pre-programmed
Like a film, perhaps.

Maybe our brains,
When we decide our unique and individual thoughts,
Simply slip back in time
To ready our bodies
For the deed.

Slip back in time.
A few moments.
That’s all it takes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crow Thinking

Crow sits
On the March branch
Beside the black scribble
Of last year’s nest
Thinking… well what?
Can a crow think?

So, can a crow have thoughts?
Don’t ask me.
Ask a crow scientist.
Or you could try
Googling it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Overheard on Train

Listen – I don’t know how I’ll get through this week. Amy said she’d design the tee shirts for my birthday and they’re not done yet and it’s Thursday and I texted her, not in a horrible way, to say hurry up and I wasn’t being funny but it’s two days away and that’s reality and I seriously think Amy has a problem and I’m stressed out this week ‘cos of my birthday and my final assessment and all and Amy promised and it doesn’t help the fact that I've been ill and pushing myself beyond my limits and you know I’m not someone who usually gets stressed out but Amy has a problem and it’s my birthday and anyway I've just ruled out today and that’s that, okay? How are you?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Are You Famous?

(a question that children often ask me in schools)

On a scale of one to Michael Rosen
I am probably a seven
On a scale of soft to very loud
I am probably eleven
On a scale of one to Einstein
I’m probably one and a half
On a scale of groan to hysteria
I’m probably a laugh
On a scale of one to infinity
I’m a meagre sixty one
On a scale of A to Z
I hover at F for Fun
On a scale of amoeba to gorilla
I’m sitting on top of the tree
On the scale of now till the end of time
I’ll soon be history

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Eye Hospital Waiting Room

She sits and stares

Dilated eyes

Waiting for the doctor

Straight grey hair

Eastern European accent

She sighs

Society is different now, she says

Maybe that’s where it all went wrong

Cup of tea? The nurse asks

Are my eyes dilated?

Yes they are.

Are they beautiful?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sneeze on a Monday

If you sneeze on a Monday, there'll be sunny weather
Sneeze on a Tuesday, all friends together
Sneeze on a Wednesday, sneeze for a letter
Sneeze on a Thursday, get something better
Sneeze on a Friday, a visit from Bert
Sneeze on a Saturday, it's gone all down your shirt
Sneeze on a Sunday...
Bless you!

Written with and illustrated by Michael Leigh

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weather Lore

Red sky in the morning

Yardbirds are yawning

Red sky at night

The racoons will take flight

A sunshiny shower

Will last half a flannel

If it's raining cats and dogs

Hide under a camel

Written with Michael Leigh. Illustrated by Michael Leigh

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

Pussy cat, pussy cat

Where have you been?

I've been up to London

To visit the Queen

Pussy cat, pussy cat

What did you there?

Actually I was there on behalf of The Cat Can Look At a Queen Society - discussing ways to get a little more recognition for the pivotal role cats have played in traditional stories and poems.

Written with and illustrated by Michael Leigh

Saturday, March 20, 2010

There Was An Old Woman

There was an old woman
Who lived in a canoe
She paddled all day
Till her hands turned blue
And all of her children
On the river bank
Laughed and laughed
When her little boat sank
Don't worry, they said,
That you've sunk your canoe
We've had a whip round
And bought you a shoe

Written with Michael Leigh
Illustrated by Michael Leigh

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Owl and the Pussycat

The owl and the pussycat

Went to sea

The owl ate the pussycat

Oh deary me

Written with Michael Leigh
Illustration by Michael Leigh

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dance, Dance

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dark Settee
And I'll bounce on you
And you can bounce on me
And we'll both sit down
And watch TV

Poem written with Michael Leigh
Illustrated by Michael Leigh

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Making a Poem for Valentine's Day

If you say
and make it rhyme
a poem,

a kiss

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Horror Poem

I like...
digging out the eyes
I like...
pushing the knife
into the...
cutlery drawer
I like...
twisting the legs
off a...
broken chair
I like...
wringing the neck
of a...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Catherine, Eloise

(A poem I wrote and sent to a friend of mine for a critique. She made a few changes and helped me get it into shape. It's a good example of the creative process. - RS)

Catherine Eloise

It seems to me you are so awkward, wayward
Ill at ease – even wilful
How can you function, eat, sleep, keep this manor
In the manner that we are accustomed to?
You, who tends the wonderful garden
How are those seeds, those bulbs, those corms
We witnessed pushing upwards, upwards to the light
(But not at night)
How are they coming on?
Those Lupins blue, those Canterbury bells
And the borders which you created
From old wire and bedsteads from the tip
And winkle shells and whelk shells
From the beach
Such happy days watching you and the servants,
The girls from the village,
The gorgeous girls we paid so pitifully
Oh, remember them, each lining up for their threepence
And free bag of gooseberries.

Version 2

Catherine, Eloise

Catherine Eloise (would one name be better? Just Catherine maybe?)
It seems to me you are so awkward, wayward
Ill at ease – even wilful (again simplify – just wilful. How about contrary?) Okay!
How can you function, eat, sleep, keep this manor
In the manner that we are accustomed to? (Don’t like it – leave it out. ) Manner – manor – it’s clever. (No – it’s contrived.)
You, who tends the wonderful garden
How are those seeds, those bulbs, those corms
We witnessed pushing upwards, upwards to the light
(But not at night.)
How are they coming on? (That’s stupid – not at night! Less is more) How about – just keeping how is your garden coming along? (Better!)
Those Lupins blue, those Canterbury bells
And the borders which you created
From old wire and bedsteads from the tip
And winkle shells and whelk shells (winkles and whelks? Bit common – how about cockleshells? ) Yeah – then I can rhyme shells and bells.
From the beach
Such happy days watching you and the servants,
The girls from the village,
The gorgeous girls we paid so pitifully (gorgeous? Bit too sexy – modern. What’s wrong with pretty?)Oh, remember them, each lining up for their threepence
And free bag of gooseberries.
Okay – so how does it sound now?

Version 3


You are so contrary.
How is your garden coming along?
With cockle shells and Canterbury bells
And pretty girls
Lining up for their threepence
And free bag of gooseberries

Much better.

What about if I called her Mary? To rhyme with contrary?
(Good – and repeat it so that it keeps the rhythm)
(And the word Canterbury is a bit awkward.)How about silver bells?
Which matches pretty. (I like it…)

So we have

Mary Mary
Quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty… how about maids? (That’s good)
And pretty maids
Lining up for their threepence and free bag of gooseberries.
Although would she have paid them in gooseberries?
(Probably not.)
Coal then?
And pretty maids
Lining up for their free bag of coal.

(That’s it! Well done! It’s a classic!)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cricket Poem 3

I fancy Milly
The captain of the girl’s cricket team.
She’s a real catch.
She bowls me over.
She’s got a wicket smile
That creases me up.
I want to ask her out
But I don’t know how to pitch it.
It’s got me stumped.
She knocks me for six.
My love for her knows no boundaries.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Early Start

I left you
In the morning
Sleeping in the gap between
Dreams and waking

The draking place

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Freeze Frame

A tree
Bereft of leaves
Caught, frozen in position
Running across a field