Seasonal Affective Disorder (Simon R Gladdish)


An extended meditation on the
Nature of time and its effects
Inspired by Edward Fitzgerald’s
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
By  Simon R. Gladdish


For my much-missed mother Enid and father Kenneth (fellow author), my brother Matthew and his family, my sister Sarah and her family and last but never least, my wife Rusty, without whom there would have been nothing.


Simon R Gladdish  was born in Kampala, Uganda in 1957.
His family returned to Britain in 1961, to Reading where he grew up.
Educated at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, he trained as an English Language Teacher, a profession which enabled him to live in Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and Kuwait for a long time. He now lives near Swansea, Wales.
His poetry has been warmly acclaimed by many other poets including Andrew Motion, the present British Poet Laureate.
He has published nine volumes of poetry so far: Victorian Values, Back to Basics, Images of Istanbul, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Original Cliches, Torn Tickets and Routine Returns, Homage to Edward Lear and The Tiny Hunchbacked Horse and The Poisoned Tunic jointly translated from Russian with Vladimir and Elena Grounine.


‘The moving finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

With earth’s first clay they did the last man’s knead,
And of the final harvest sowed the seed:
Yea, the first morning of creation wrote
What the last dawn of reckoning shall read.’

(Extract from ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’)



Experiencing contrition
Like a weak prison warden,
I sit in my kitchen
Overlooking my garden.

The season is April
(The cruellest of months)
Aries the psychopath
Swaggers and flaunts.

Tell me, my darling
What can the matter be?
Is it the daffodils
Under the apple tree?

Is it the ivy
Hiding in the branches
Or is it the hyacinths
Huddled in bunches?

Is it the primroses
Proud on parade
Or is it the foxgloves
That make you afraid?

Is it the river
Which winds like a snake
Or fate’s blind indifference
That makes your heart ache?

Time is a river
Or perhaps it’s a lake.
Time makes us shiver,
Accelerate and break.

Time is a stream
On its way to the sea,
Leapfrogging the waterfalls,
Untrammelled and free.

Time is an arrow
Or perhaps it’s an axe.
Nothing protects us
Against its attacks.

Time is a goldcrest
Trapped in a cage.
Time is the palimpsest
Under the page.

Time is our ancestry,
Sad and forlorn,
Tacked onto a tapestry
Before we were born.

Time is a tinderbox,
Time is a tangle.
Time’s a pair of tawny socks
Twisted at an angle.

Time is a treasure
Placed in a chest;
A pleasure to measure,
Waste or invest.

Time is a pyramid
Lost in the sands.
A peculiar liquid
Which runs through our hands.

Time is a tragedy
Performed in a palace.
Time is Jack Kennedy
Murdered in Dallas.

Time is the bullet
Tin-opening his skull,
Unravelling the cortex
Like soft cotton-wool.

Time’s Freddie Mercury
Dying of Aids,
His diamonds as useful
As handle-less spades.

Time is Bohemia
Preserved in a rhapsody.
Time is a prisoner
Dissolving in custody.

Time is the tune
To a popular song.
Time is the hand-over
Due in Hong Kong.

At a small country station
When it’s pouring with rain,
Time is the tedium
Of missing your train.

Time is a telescope
Trained on the track
As life’s locomotive
Comes lumbering back.

Time is a telephone
Oppressing the room
With ambiguous messages
About a princess’s doom.

Time is a talisman
Tied to a mast.
Time is an also-ran
Coming in last.

Time is a treadmill
Of worry and work.
The second world war
Was when time went beserk.

Time is a parcel bomb
Winging its way
From here to Hiroshima –
Unwrapped the same day.

Under Victoria
And Benjamin Disraeli,
The Times was the thunderer,
Thundering daily.

Time is a coin
In the mouth of a cod.
Time is theology:
Is there a God?

Time is a healer
Or so we are told.
Time is a stealer
Of simpletons’ gold.

Time, like necessity,
Mothers inventions.
Time, like anxiety,
Smothers intentions.

Time is a mirror
That smashes in two;
A heart-rending sorrow
That lashes us through.

Time’s a haemophiliac
Like my best friend Trevor.
(Time’s a necrophiliac –
Better late than never!)

Time is a necklace
Of dates and events;
A gift from a magus:
Gold, myrrh, frankincense.

Time is a challenge,
A chance to make good.
Time is the dry-rot
Asleep in the wood.

Time is latitude,
Time is longitude;
A poisonous attitude
Perfected in solitude.

Time is the padlock
On Pandora’s box
Portentously opened
On Opportunity Knocks.

The dreams that the sirens
Dragged on to the rocks
While the hero Odysseus
Was attending his flocks.

And Orion the hunter
Outwitting the fox
In the midsummer solstice
And spring equinox.

Time prevents everything
Happening at once;
A vulgar procession
Of days, weeks and months.

Time is a tortoise
Encased in its shell;
A shiny sarcophagus
Shaped like a bell.

Time is a tableau
Of a team playing cricket;
The static white figures
Grouped around the green wicket.

And Joan Hunter Dunne
In the Aldershot sun
Gently thrashing her partner
By three sets to one.

And insouciant punting
On the Isis or Cam.
Is there honey for tea?
More like strawberry jam

To go with the crumpet
We toast by the fire
(Until she complains
She’s about to expire!)

Time is a temptress,
A tart and a tease.
A hard-working sempstress
Attempting to please.

Time is a con artist
Readily bluffing;
A tired taxidermist
Unsteadily stuffing.

Time is the lease
Running out on your flat;
Your belongings in boxes
And disconsolate cat.

Time is a bucket
Containing a hole.
A trek from Nantucket
Towards the North Pole.

Time is the error
Of abusing our cooks.
Time is the terror
Of losing our looks.

A bald-headed man
Whose appearance is pleated
Has debated with time
And been roundly defeated.

Time is a teacher
Burnt out in the class;
The Sunday night dread
Of the Monday impasse.

Time is the tarot deck
Path I have trod
(Banged up with the hermit –
The miserable old sod!)

Time is a joker
Whose jokes we enjoy;
A prattling prankster
Who’s apt to annoy.

Mephisto Magician
(Mountebank from Milan)
Is astounding the masses
With legerdemain.

Time is the high priestess,
Cool, unassailable,
Beautiful, brilliant,
Quite unavailable.

Time is the empress,
Fragrant with hope,
Seductive, maternal,
Smelling sweetly of soap.

Bellowing orders
In a bass-baritone,
Her husband the emperor
Reclines on his throne.

Nearby is the heirophant
(Beard overgrown)
Blessing the populace
And invoking Saint Joan.

Time is an oyster
Incubating a pearl.
Time is a boy
Making love to a girl.

The lovers embrace
At the end of the pier
As time’s winged chariot
Is hurrying near.

Furtive sex in a climate
Of worrying fear;
(A fumbling coupling
Then straight home for a beer.)

Time is the strength
That we need to endure
The sea’s cruel contortions
As we swim for the shore.

Time is the hermit
I have mentioned before
Who rots in his hut
And won’t answer the door.

Time is Dame Fortune’s reel
Solemnly spinning;
The glamorous roulette wheel
When we happen to be winning.

Time is the hanging man
Caught by his foot;
His arms are a rhombus,
His hair is a root.

Time is our lifeblood
Liberally spread
Over the fields
Where the poppies have bled.

(Instead of just forgetting,
It’s time for us to talk;
Wherever there is blood-letting,
The devil loves to stalk.

In Bosnia or Ireland
The narrative’s the same;
The guns and bombs exploding
In history’s dreary name.

Corpses stuff the alleys,
Justice goes unheard;
Truth’s a major casualty,
Morality is blurred.)

Time’s gentle temperance,
The need to refrain
From committing new errors
And causing more pain.

Time is the tower
Whose structure’s unsound;
The East German Mauer
Swiftly smashed to the ground.

When we wish on a star
We expect to pull through;
The nightmare will end
And our dreams will come true.

Time is the sun
And time is the moon
And time is the morning
Returning  too soon.

And judgement and justice
Are what we must face
If our lives have been selfish
And lacking in grace.

And time is the world
As we’re all well aware
With which we have nothing
At all to compare.

Time is the flower
Making way for the weed.
The farmer and lover
Both broadcasting their seed.

And time is the books
I’m still planning to read:
The Cloud of Unknowing
And Venerable Bede.

(Time is the price
Of dividing the cost
Between All’s Well that Ends Well
And Love’s Labours Lost.)

Time is the blues
When your lover has gone;
The insatiable muse
That won’t leave us alone.

Time’s sibling rivalry
Ever since Cain and Abel;
The decaying cadaver
Stretched out on the table.

Time is the feel
Of a courtesan’s flesh.
The foul-tasting milk
That we thought was still fresh.

Physicists laboured in vain
When they tried
To prove time successional
And not side by side.

But mediaeval mystics
Knew to a man
That time slowly unfolding
Was part of God’s plan.

Time chisels the milestones
Towards our salvation
Like petals gradually opening
On a rose or carnation.

Time is the stanza
The poet has read.
Time is the spider
Ascending his thread.

Time is a chrysalis
Glued to a leaf,
Giving birth to a butterfly –
Taking off like a thief.

Time is the railings
Surrounding the park;
The planets abseiling
Their way through the dark.

Time’s a conundrum
Wrapped up in a mystery,
Shot through with controversy,
Repackaged as history.

Time is a jazz band
Whose music is trad;
And also a taxi
Whose meter’s gone mad!

Time is a teapot
Whose tea has gone cold;
A queue at a bus stop –
A full standing load.

Time is a lorry
Burnt out on the road;
The dinosaur skeleton
Of metal and wood.

Time’s the deceased
Leaking blood through his skin;
The last rites of the priest
Reeking whisky and gin.

Time is the tunnel
Hollowed out by the mole;
The unbridgeable gulf
Between substance and soul.

Time’s my aunt Rosemary,
Riddled with cancer;
On her knees praying,
Demanding an answer.

Time is a terrorist
Out on parole;
His victims still anguishing
Body and soul.

Time is the cross
Between matter and space
Upon which our Saviour
Hung for three days.

Time is astronomy
(Son and heir to astrology)
Political economy
And bio-technology.

Time is the lamb
Crucified in a circle;
The crowd uncontrollable,
The emperor in purple.

Time is the bull
Slaughtered under the sun;
European directives
And rotting meat by the ton.

Time is the twins
Such as Janet and John,
Castor and Pollux,
Reginald and Ron.

Time is the crayfish
Abandoning June,
Surrendering sideways
To the silvery moon.

Time is the lion
(The king of the beasts)
Defender of Zion
And arranger of feasts.

Time is the virgin
Whose control is sublime.
(The hard-hearted harlequin
Is wasting his time.)

Time is the balance
Precariously poised
Like Damocles’ sword
Till our verdicts are voiced.

Time is the scorpion
With its treacherous tail.
The tower struck by lightning,
The dreams doomed to fail.

Time is the archer
With his bright-coloured bow
Drawn across the green valley
In a glorious show.

Time is the goat
Contemplating the sky
With his conservative coat
And rectangular eye.

Time is the water-bearer
With a jug in each hand,
Refilling the sea
And refreshing the land.

Time is the sign
Of the mystical fish;
The prophet and dreamer
Imprisoned in flesh.

Time is the actual,
The past and the future;
A fractured black vacuum
Stitched up like a suture.

Time’s the refrain
In the midst of a song.
Time is this poem
Which has gone on too long.

Time is a bat
Upside-down in its cave.
Time is a sultan
Asleep in his grave.

Time is an illusion,
A present from our Maker
Which tucks us into coffins
Like a cheerful undertaker.

TAMAM SHUD   (It is completed.)

The right of Simon R. Gladdish to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright,  Designs, and Patents Act, 1988.


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