Back to Basics by Simon R Gladdish






A ‘Z to A’ of amusing poems for children, intelligent adults and extra-terrestrials.




For my much-missed mother Enid and my 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 for years in Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and Kuwait. He now lives near Swansea, Wales.

His poetry has been warmly acclaimed by other poets including Andrew Motion, the present British Poet Laureate.

He has published eight volumes of poetry so far: Victorian Values, Back to Basics, Images of Istanbul, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Original Cliches,

Torn Tickets and Routine Returns and The Tiny Hunchbacked Horse
Incidentally I am still looking for a publisher for my poetry and would welcome any serious offers.






The zebra was tried in the jungle court;

The audience was large.

Judge Lance Leo solemnly declared:

‘I charge you with camouflage.

You already know the sentence –

It’s life imprisonment.

You’re allowed a black and white TV

And the Sunday papers without the supplement.

Much will depend on behaviour;

The more trouble you cause, the less

You’ll be allowed to hoof the piano,

Lose at draughts or cheat at chess.

You’ve already got the uniform;

I don’t want to hear your gripes.

I’ve dealt with enough of you to know

That a zebra never changes his stripes.

You’re an habitual criminal;

You don’t know wrong from right.

If you don’t believe me, read the law –

It’s here in black and white!’





Yo-yos are a simile

For going up and down;

Ascending and descending

Like a crazy circus clown.

A professional jockey,

Stocky and neat

Goes up and down

Like a lavatory seat.

Up and down like a lift

Or an escalator,

Continental drift

Or a particularly dumb waiter.

Like a jack-in-the-box

Or a tide’s ebb and flow

But the favourite metaphor

Remains the yo-yo.





X-rays are excellent

At exploring our bones,

Examining cancers

And kidney stones.

The machine takes a photo

Of our skeleton

To monitor problems

That might have arisen.

If we need an X-ray,

We have to be brave –

It’s a bit like sitting

In a microwave.

Thanks to Jacques Chirac

And Gallic generosity,

The South Pacific Islanders

Get their X-rays for free!





The mist draws down its gauzy veil

Across the craggy face of Cader Idris.

The estuary echoes to the curlew’s trilling mournful cry.

Soft rains fall gently on the verdant valleys;

Above the hawk is hovering ever-watchful in an empty sky.

As the morning star fades into the rosy splendour of the dawn,

The sun steals warmly over Brecon’s purple heather hills.

The solitary wail of lambs just newly born

Drowns the screeching of the kestrel as it swoops and kills.

Wistful Wales, land of poetry, song and waterfalls.

Land of Arthurian legends and granite castles in the air.

On frostbitten moonlit nights the ghostly Celtic voices call;

Their medieval message stirs the vixen in her lair.





You see them in the pub:

Their faces as harsh and unforgiving

As the granite hillsides

They inhabit;

Their minds as touchingly narrow

As the claustrophobic valley

They call home.

You feel their icy gimlet eyes

Drilling the back of your neck.

You smile but the smile

Freezes on your lips.

You’re a stranger

And they don’t like strangers.

You were going to have another

But you think better of it.

You drain the bitter soapy suds

Set down your glass

And quietly leave


How much you’ll save

By drinking at home.





Every Sunday without fail

The vicar gives his sermon.

The congregation wouldn’t notice

If he delivered it in German.

He tells us to give generously

(To the church) and love our labours;

To be kind to our enemies

And considerate to our neighbours.

He officiates at weddings,

At funerals and christenings.

It never seems to bother him

That no-one’s ever listening.

We usually slip into church

Without making a sound.

We slip out just as silently

When the collection tray comes round.

So long as there are men like him,

We’ll never feel alone.

(After the harvest festival

He put on at least a stone.)

On Sunday after Sunday

The man has proved his worth.

We know that all’s well with the world

When we hear him holding forth!





The coward dies a thousand times;

The hero dies but twice.

The hero prowls through sunny climes;

The coward crawls on ice.

The hero is a lion

While the coward is a louse.

Just contrast his will of iron

With the other timorous mouse.

The graveyard’s full of heroes;

The coward cuts the grass.

His life a string of zeroes

(But at least he’s saved his arse.)

The grim reaper grabs the sower

Before he’s fully grown.

(I’ll have to fix this mower –

It keeps snagging on a stone.)

I bravely bore the public sneers;

It was always my intention,

After paying tax for forty years

To collect a decent pension.





Umbrellas remind me

Of dandies and fops

And Parisian ladies

Who twirl them like tops.

Or bowler-hatted businessmen

Brandishing them like a sword

And fencing with each other

When they’re feeling bored.

Or beautiful women

Ensconced on the beach,

Their colourful parasols

Always in reach.

The British are practical

Boring and plain;

We tend to have black ones

That keep off the rain.





‘Is time real?’

Was the title of an essay

I was set at university.

The arguments were messy

But in the end

I pronounced time

As fictional as fate.

I was given an ungraded

For handing it in late.

When I do count the clock

That tells the time.

And hear the cuckoo

Trill his silly song,

I realise that my thesis

(Though sublime)

Was in all probability

Totally wrong.





I kept hearing ‘The Third Man’

This hot afternoon.

It’s hackneyed and cliched

But I still like the tune.

It’s one of those tunes

That allow you to dream;

I was slowly seduced

Into buying ice-cream.

The children ran out

With their whistles and screams.

They lined up politely

Like two football teams.

I tagged on the end

Like a sub at full-time

And when my turn came

I whispered: ‘One Harry lime.

One Harry lime

Preferably Graham green

And a Viennese whirl

For my girlfriend Christine.’




Said the spider to the fly:

‘Would you like to come to dinner?

I observe you’re growing thinner

With my kind maternal eye.’

Said the fly to the spider:

‘You must think me a fool.

Though charming, you are cruel

And your web is getting wider.’

Said the spider to the fly:

‘Come and drink some mother’s milk;

I’ll envelop you in silk.

Why, there’s no need to be shy!’

Said the fly to the spider:

‘Despite your offer of fresh cream,

You’re not as generous as you seem.

I prefer to stick to cider.’

Said the spider to the fly:

‘Set foot upon my ladder!

If you make me any sadder

Then I will surely die.’

Said the fly to the spider:

‘I wasn’t put on earth to suffer

So before things get any rougher

I’ll say goodbye dear, goodbye.’

Said the widow to herself:

‘Such ingratitude’s appalling,

Standards everywhere are falling;

Still, there’s little point in stalling,

It’s almost time to give a mauling

To that desiccated bluebottle

I left unfinished on my shelf.’





Tables are rather tedious

Whether round or square.

Objects that we bump into

When we forget they’re there.

It’s such a boring subject

Whichever ones we choose:

Kitchen tables mean hard work,

Card tables that we’ll lose.

Dining tables mean washing-up,

Library tables, status

And café tables, hefty tips

For supercilious waiters.

I’m not saying they’re not necessary,

We all know that they are.

I’ll have a pint of Guinness, please

If you’re going to the bar.




This bright butterscotch morning

The dandelion day-star

Flooded my room

With a buttercup brilliance

That poured like honey down my bedroom wall

As I lay dazzled and enthralled

Soaking up a surfeit of the hazy summer sun,

Mesmerised by birdsong and the raven’s lonely call.

Through my open window

I can see the dust motes dancing

On the shimmering primrose sunbeams

From those searching cosmic rays.

Giant sunflowers in the garden

Smile a golden good morning

As they gratefully greet

The daffodil day.





I bought a string of yellow lemons

From a lemon seller in Tunisia.

He sold them on the street

And assured me they were sweet

In a language which resembled English.

Three dinars fell from my hand into his.

We smiled, shook hands;

The following day I brought them home

To England.

For weeks I dreamt

Of offering guests

Freshly pressed lemonade

Confected from the zest

Of juice and peel.

But in my heart of hearts

I continued to suspect

That they were sour.

Eventually temptation won;

I peeled and pared one

Liberating the intoxicating scent

Of lavender and lilac,

Of patchouli or some other

Subtle oriental perfume.

Gingerly, I lifted a segment to my mouth,

Inserted it and waited.

It was not exactly sweet,

Yet replete with delicate, unfamiliar fragrance.

I masticated the citric flesh

With masochistic pleasure.

The succeeding segments slowly followed

Soft upon the first

Till there was nothing left but

Pips, pith and saffron-coloured skin.

Like the man who discovered

Black swans in Australia;

Like Darwin pondering

The origin of species,

I felt euphoric and sad






I am a silent witness

To the silence

Of the whiteness.





It’s a rain-sodden Sunday;

The sky looks like lead.

It’s one of those days

When I’d rather be dead.

There’s left-overs to eat

And nothing to drink.

The raindrops cascade

As I struggle to think

Of what I will do

With the rest of my life.

Become a recluse?

Advertise for a wife?

I’m wondering why

I’ve never been blessed;

I cannot deny

That I’m feeling depressed.

Other people have fortunes;

I’m deep in the red.

It’s one of those days when

I’d rather be dead.





I bet you’ve often wondered

Why you’ve spent your life alone.

Your friendships have been sundered

By your heart of solid stone.

You always want your own

Plus every other ration.

Hitler could have given you

Lessons in compassion.

You say you’re apolitical

And in a sense it’s true.

The Conservatives were never

Quite right-wing enough for you.

Not that you’re a racist;

Good God! Heaven forbid!

You’d marry a black tomorrow

If he had a million quid.

Your selfishness has aged you;

You’re jaundiced as a lemon.

You’re rotting from the inside out –

A monument to mammon.





Fickle April rains sweep down the valley

Showering unsuspecting sheep,

When suddenly the sun bursts through the clumsy clouds

And glorious iridescent colours arc across a pewter sky.

We reach out greedily to take them in our grasp

And breathe a sigh of sadness as nature’s miracle

Dissolves and vanishes before our disbelieving eyes,

Leaving us open-mouthed and empty-handed.

No pots of gold,

But as all children know

The spirit of the rainbow touches souls.





I’m terrible at card games

Even when I choose them.

I shuffle, cut and often deal

And still manage to lose them.

After getting thrashed at bridge

I observed my partner’s face

Who scowled ‘We would have won that one

If you’d not sat on your ace!’

I’m writing to the Queen of Hearts

Somewhat clandestinely.

What’s good enough for the knave of clubs

Is good enough for me.

We’re trying to arrange a rendez-vous

Without the waiting maids,

Without the paparazzi

Or the wicked Queen of Spades.

You wouldn’t believe the chaos

Behind the royal throne.

I quite often lose patience

When I’m playing on my own.

I think I’ll take a deck of cards

For when we’re feeling bored,

But I rather doubt that diamonds

Will be my just reward!





I’m sick of bloody poetry,

It’s driving me insane.

The endless search for metaphors

Is damaging my brain.

Most of it is rubbish;

I think that much is plain.

Those who refuse to look at it

Are right to show disdain.

We write more while the moon is waxing,

Less when it starts to wane.

Like lunatics on day-release

We strive to sound urbane.

We’re forever on the aspirin

To lessen our migraine.

We have a hundred little tricks

To flesh out the quatrain.

Condemned to impotently howl

Like a dog tied to a chain,

We scribble utter drivel down

To exorcise our pain.





Rheum-eyed greybeard,

Reciting his time-worn offerings,

The similes as stale as last year’s bread.


They had a certain vogue

Thirty years ago.

Now, they are as familiar

As the door that will not shut,

The window that refuses to close.

Still, the disarming freshness of the delivery

And the polished professionalism of the performance

Fools some and disconcerts others

Who know them by heart.


Like bicycles,

Rust if they are taken out

Too often.





I used to have a cat called Pat;

I found him rather sinister.

In fact I could trust him about as far

As your average Government Minister.

He skulked about in ditches

And hung around with witches.

He wasn’t short of ready cash

And boasted of his riches.

One day I joked about a loan

And ended up in stitches.

He took himself very seriously

And liked to dress in silk.

He wasn’t keen on clotted cream,

Preferring Liebfraumilch.

The good life finally got to him

So I drove him to the vet.

I phoned up several months later

To find out if he was dead yet.

The nurse told me some aged crone

Had claimed him with a blush.

Her nose looked like a traffic cone

And she was carrying a brush.

So Patrick, if you’re reading this

I hope there’s no ill-feeling.

It’s just that you made me dizzy

When you danced upon my ceiling.

You know I had to let you go

To stop the neighbours squealing.





There is a certain satisfaction

In the slight smell of salt

Softly surfing on the wind

And a smooth circular stone

Skimming swiftly across

The silky sparkling surface of the sea.

How sad that one day

We will be unable to stoop and pick

The shiny pebble

Standing a little proud of its companions.





Where is the girl of yesteryear

With the tumbling strawberry flaxen hair?

The pearly teeth smiling beneath

The coquettish azure stare?

The skin as smooth as a nectarine,

The merry girlish giggle;

The sexy swing, the wedding ring,

The wanton womanly wiggle?

The roseate blush on either cheek,

The delicate nape of the neck.

The lips so cherry-ripe and sweet

That men could hardly speak?

Now the muddy flesh sticks to

The skull beneath the skin.

Your youth is gone, you soldier on

Although you know you cannot win.

I’ve seen the yellowed photographs

Taken with your permission.

Time may be a great healer

But it’s a cruel beautician.





The steep and craggy cliffs drop dizzily down

Into a sparkling turquoise ocean.

The gentle waves glint glasslike in the sun;

The everchanging seascape in perpetual motion

Lies reposed and tranquil when the day is done.

When mercurial winds shift and change direction

And stormy skies are glowering grey,

The restless surface rearranges textures

Whilst the glowing lighthouse guides

The great ships safely to the bay.

The tempest rages till its fury’s spent

On ragged rocks and surging billowing tides;

And heavy leaden skies relent

Parting their gloomy features in a smile.

And all at once the ocean’s smooth as silk;

Hardly a ripple or a breeze disturbs the fickle sea.





Everyone loves nurses;

They’re gentle and kind.

When a patient curses

They never seem to mind.

Some think they are angels

Sent down from above.

Human manifestations

Of transcendental love.

They train for three years

To obtain their diploma

Before they’re let loose on

Someone in a coma.

Their starched uniforms

Of navy and white,

For the sorest of eyes

Are a beautiful sight.

Some marry doctors

And have lovely daughters.

The fat and the plain ones

Make do with the porters.





Winter’s wilful bitter winds

Blow wildly on the savage moor

And stormy skies unleash their torrents

On the disadvantaged poor

Shivering in their mean unheated hovels,

Cowering as icy rains beat loudly on their door,

Monotonous, ceaseless showers

Howling for admittance.

In capricious April

Winter draws back her drab and meagre mantle

To reveal a landscape carpeted with colour.

Indigo, blue and newly minted green

And drifts of daffodils trembling

In the sun-kissed breeze;

The rippling silky grasses that conceal

A wealth of modest flowers

Sparkling like kaleidoscopic gemstones

And songbirds serenade us in the silver birches.

Summer often takes us by surprise

With hot and sunny, long and dusty days;

And golden evenings, lengthening shadows,

Until the setting rays of the rosy fingered sun

Descend and die

Leaving a softly glowing violet haze.

Autumn ushers in

Seasons of mist and dappled fruitful change.

Stroked by the falling sun

The emerald lime trees

Slowly rearrange their verdant furniture,

Recovering it with copper, russet, gold

And shuddering as the exhausted year grows cold.





It’s a town without proportion,

An architect’s abortion,

A nightmare of privation

Come to life.

It’s a solid waste of matter,

A squalid wasteland for the squatter;

It’s the cyst before it meets the surgeon’s knife.

Its squat perimeter fences

Are an insult to the senses;

Its precincts are a focal point of strife.

Its ugliness is cosmic,

Lacking all aesthetic logic;

Its what happens when town planners

Are permitted to run rife.

When I recall the verve of Venice,

The grandeur that was Rome,

The exuberance of Florence,

St Peter’s splendid dome;

I feel quite overcome

And curse myself for catching

The fateful ferry home.





While examining my hollyhocks

I’ve made the observation

That the fancy-free fructiferous bee

Treats the wasp like a poor relation.

From Dundee down to Devizes

One wasp looks just like another.

The working-class wasp in its turn despises

Its aristocratic brother.

The street-fighting wasp speaks estuary English

And ain’t got no time for fads.

It enjoys a pint of mild and bitter

And a day out with the lads.

The bee sips the finest nectar

And shows off its flashy gold rings;

Yet unlike its cousin who’s good for a dozen

It crashes to earth when it stings.





The moon makes its hesitant ascent

Above the green-clad mountain.

It smiles benignly down

Upon the village hushed and huddled on the ground.

In the dark deserted square

The silver fountain forms clear shallow pools

Which frame the Queen of Heaven’s sparkling jewels.

The solitary magnetic pearl

That orbits planet earth

Floats lazily along the Milky Way

And concludes its lonely sojourn at the break of day.





Milk is a lactation

Obtained from female mammals.

I believe that in Arabia

They milk the female camels.

In Africa it’s even worse,

They have to milk the cheetahs.

It used to come in pints

And now it comes in litres.





God committed suicide

Several millennia ago.

He was too depressed

To leave a note for Moses.

For thousands of years

Our prayers

Have echoed


In the void

And the world,

No longer flicked round

By His invisible index finger

Has, by common and

Universal consent,

Gone to the dogs.





Many are the ladies

Who’ve had me smitten.

Many are the letters

I have written.

Many are the sighs

That I have heaved.

Few are the replies

That I’ve received.

These days the only people

Who ever write to me

Are bureaucrats at the electricity

And water company.

I get a bit of junk mail

(Usually second post).

I’ve a competition with the guy next door

To see who gets the most.

I still listen for the postman

With his firm familiar tread.

It’s no exaggeration

To say it gets me out of bed.

I seize hold of the envelopes

In brown or white or buff.

I don’t care about the contents –

I just never get enough!





Leaves form filigrees of intricacy

That flutter from the lofty trees

Like banners heralding the spring.

Leaves of apple-green spread

Their feathery canopies

And shade the grateful bluebells

Nodding murmuring approval

In the late spring breeze.

In midsummer when men and women

Take their ease

Beneath the mighty shading chestnut trees,

Shafts of sunlight filter through the leaves

And dappled shadows ripple on the leaf-strewn lawns.

In autumn when the year grows old

Impatient winds blow brisk and cold,

Shaking the trees with leaves of red, brown, gold

And laughing when they tumble sadly down.





Keys are made of metal

And admit us into houses.

When we are not using them

We keep them in our trousers.

Should we dream about a key,

It’s a circumlocution

For an answer to a mystery

That’s evaded resolution.

Keys are representative

Of mentality and matter.

If you drop them on the table-top,

They make a dreadful clatter.





Jokes are politically incorrect

Socio-linguistic rockets;

Like the one about Scots wearing kilts

Because they haven’t any pockets.

Alternative comedians tell right-on jokes

And get paid a lot of money.

The only trouble is that they

Are not remotely funny.

I think there’s a dilemma here

That people will not face;

The best jokes are the ones that poke

Fun at the human race.

Of one thing I am certain

Enough to declare a dictum;

A joke is like a murder –

There has to be a victim!





Money is perfect

For paying the bills,

For tipping in restaurants

And leaving in wills.

For flying in Concorde,

Dining at the Ritz

And getting stuck in

To the glamour and glitz.

But hang on a minute

Before we jet off;

It’s not everyone

With their snout in the trough.

All over Africa,

In India too

They don’t have enough

For a vegetable stew.

Come. Let’s not feel guilty

Or we’ll never be rid

Of this bottle of Bolly

We carefully hid.

Here’s your new diamond necklace;

Why not open the lid?

We work jolly hard

(Or our forefathers did.)

Some say money’s evil.

(In fact there are many)

But they’re the poor devils

Who haven’t got any!





There are too many butchers

And not enough bakers.

Too few givers

And too many takers.

Too much hatred,

Not enough love.

Too many warplanes

In the heavens above.

Too much trash

On the T.V.

Too few programmes

Of quality.

Hardly a leader

Who understands.

Too much wealth

In too few hands.

Too much heartache,

Too much suffering.

Too much effort

Wasted on nothing.

Too much pollution

And contamination.

Too little time

To save the situation.

Too much selfishness,

Greed and corruption.

Sometimes dying

Seems the least worst option.








I spy with my little eye

Something beginning with I.

Give up?

Don’t they teach you anything

At that expensive comprehensive?

It’s irony.

OK. Still my turn.

I spy with my little eye

Something beginning with F.

No, it’s not that

You ignorant toerag,

It’s forgery.

OK. One more try.

I spy with my little eye

Something beginning with S.

I’ll give you a clue.

It’s what you’re going to need

If you don’t get it.

No, it’s not sex,

It’s bloody surgery.

OK. Still my go.

I spy with my little eye

Something beginning with I.

What do you mean

We’ve already had it?

It’s a different word, you fool!

There, I’ve given you a clue,

It’s connected with you.


I don’t believe it!

Well done son,

Your turn.





Deep in the night,

Inspiration strikes

The rest of the time

She does as she likes.

Drugged by sleep,

Clumsy as a leper,

You struggle to reach

For a dog-eared piece of paper.

Now you’ve awoken

But you’re out of luck;

The pencil’s broken

And the pen won’t work.

You try to memorise

Some of the specifics,

Knowing tomorrow you won’t recognise

Your own hieroglyphics.

Inspiration is a woman,

The kind to make you weep.

You don’t know when she’s coming,

She disturbs your sleep.

But when you fix a date

To grasp her by the waist,

She arrives late

And departs in haste.

Enjoy her while you can.

It’s never going to last.

Yet those surreptitious moments

Are as precious as the past.





Houses are what we live in

And where we spend our lives.

They’re where we raise our children

And irritate our wives.

Houses are important

To our self-esteem.

The queen lives in a palace

Whereas we live in a dream.

Some are built of sandstone,

Some are built of brick.

Some are so luxurious

They make you feel quite sick.

Still, if we’ve running water

And plumbed-in sanitation,

We should bear in mind we’re better off

Than two thirds of the world’s population.





Horses are wonderful,

Horses are nice.

Horses can gallop

Through fire and ice.

Horses are clever,

Horses are kind.

When they wear blinkers,

They’re partially blind.

Horses are fast,

Horses are slow.

The ones that I back

Are painfully so.

Horses can run

And horses can jump.

Horses can throw you

Off with a bump.

Horses are highly-strung,

Horses are crackers.

When they get old

They are sent to the knackers.

Horse shoes are lucky;

They’re shaped like a ‘U’.

In France they put horses

Into their stew.

Horses are hazardous,

Horses are funny.

If it wasn’t for horses

I’d still have some money!




Handbags are handy

For putting things in.

They’re socially more acceptable

Than a biscuit tin.

Their colours are various;

Red, brown or black.

Mrs Thatcher used hers

As a means of attack.

They come complete

With a buckle and strap.

Elegant ladies

Place theirs on their lap.

What could be saner

Than such a container

For make-up and jewellery

And other Tom-foolery?





The giraffe’s a curious creature

With its elongated neck.

It always seems to feature

On any sub-Saharan trek.

It used to be a donkey

But it wasn’t very prudent.

One day a gorilla grabbed its ears

To stop it being impudent.

Its neck was stretched for all to see;

(This happened on a Monday.)

Now it drinks every Saturday

And gets drunk every Sunday.

When sloshed, it wallows in despair

And slurs: ‘If you think I’m a funny mammal.

You should see my cousin Quasimodo –

The dromedary camel!’





In common with the domestic dog,

There’s something loveable about the frog,

Whether rocking gently on a log

Or bathing in a stinking bog.

Though its habitats are grimy,

Its colouring is limey,

Its skin is soft and slimy

And it likes to croak ‘gor blimey’.

It’s a monumental leaper,

A sound nocturnal sleeper,

A crafty daytime creeper,

A sentimental weeper

And an awesome wicket keeper.





Being born a Pisces,

I understand the fish.

They swim around quite aimlessly,

Their tails going swish.

They swim around in shoals

Along the coastal reef.

They don’t have any goals

And they don’t have many teeth.

I suppose they’re pretty stupid;

They’re always getting caught

By marauding Spanish fishermen

Using nets of the finer sort.

They make delicious eating

And aliment the brain

But their presence now is fleeting

For very few remain.

Although we love our fish and chips,

We mustn’t be deluded;

If we don’t scale down our fishing trips,

The seas will be denuded.





You left us in September

A dozen years ago.

You changed us all for ever

In ways you’ll never know.

You caught us out completely;

We all thought you were well.

You even died discretely

Without so much as a farewell.

I was the one who found you;

I guessed you weren’t asleep.

I sensed Seraphim around you

Who had you in their keep.

I touched your cooling body

And knew that you had gone.

You had returned to Heaven

And left us on our own.

The smile was frozen on your lips;

Your eyes stared at the ceiling.

I gently felt your fingertips

Deprived of earthly feeling.

I softly kissed you on the brow;

My tears fell on your face.

It took a little while but now

I know you’re in a better place.

Weeds grow in the graveyard,

Rain dissolves the stone;

But careless time will not erase

The mother we have known.





When I tried my hand at verse,

It took a year to write the first.

Either I’m getting better

Or the poetry’s getting worse.

The second one took seven months

And went perfectly to plan.

It was about how I bought a lollipop

From a travelling ice-cream salesman.

The third took only six months

And was more ambitious still.

It was an extended diatribe

To the tune of Blueberry Hill.

The fourth took only four months;

The twinkling of an eye.

(Actually I scrapped that one

Though I can’t remember why.)

I wrote the fifth in blank verse

Which I thought was to my credit;

(But it wasn’t as blank as the faces

Of everyone who read it.)

The sixth took only three months

And entered a competition.

When I put it in the postbox

I consigned it to perdition.

The seventh one took two months;

The syntax was exact,

The rhythm was percussive –

(I’m still not sure what it lacked.)

The eighth’s this one you’re carrying

Across the universe.

Either I’m getting better

Or the poetry’s getting worse.

I’ll write the ninth tomorrow night

And I won’t even rehearse!

Either I’m getting better

Or the poetry’s getting worse.




When actors play Hamlet,
They say ‘Break a leg’.
You can’t make an omelette

Without breaking an egg.

I used to go out

With a girlfriend called Meg.

Our relationship ended

When I gave her an egg.

If you drink bitter

On draught or in keg,

You’ll find it tastes better

With a pickled egg.

If the egg’s addled

And smells like a dreg,

You may have to beg

For the use of a peg.





The dog has special hearing,

Attuned to high-pitched sounds.

He’s also humankind’s best friend

Whose devotion knows no bounds.

Whenever danger threatens,

No-one is more brave.

Some have even starved to death

Beside their master’s grave.

He has some unpleasant habits

And tends to bark and yap,

But when he’s in a tender mood

He lies upon one’s lap.

He’s at his most amusing

Singing tenor in the choir

And spends his free time snoozing

Flatulently by the fire.

The apex of creation

Has a tail and four paws.

My favourite’s the dalmation

Or the labrador. What’s yours?





The habit of walking sideways

Is the province of the crab.

Apart from this, to be honest,

They tend to be pretty drab.

You find them under seaside stones

Along with other crustaceans

Though they prefer to live alone

Disliking conversations.

Some claim that they are thick-skinned,

Others that they are tender;

Their armour covers them so well,

You can’t always tell their gender.

Perhaps it’s little wonder

That the crab is so suspicious

Because after a lovely long hot bath

Its flesh is quite delicious!





Clothes are to us

What a carpet is to a floor,

Or to extend the metaphor

What a handle is to a door.

In Spain they don’t have carpets,

They just have marble floors.

The effect is quite superior

Till you’re crawling on all fours.

The working-class have wall-to-wall,

The middle-class have rugs.

They like to keep some floor-space clear

For their designer drugs.

The poor like theirs with patterns,

The rich like theirs with pile.

Actually, as it happens

I like mine to last a while.

Ours are pretty threadbare

And spoil our studio flat.

One day I’m going to trade them in

For an oriental mat.





You left me almost nothing,

Nothing that was mine;

All I ever got from you

Was butterflies and moonshine.

The time has come for reckoning

Before the dead arise;

The balance has been tilted

Towards the butterflies.

I’ve nothing to complain of,

My fine Italian wine

Would have tasted less than water

Without your butterflies and moonshine.

The memory of you still lingers

With the power to surprise.

I remember your long fingers,

Your moonshine and butterflies;

The lengths you went to bring us

Butterflies and moonshine,

Yes, those sweet ethereal harbingers

Butterflies and moonshine.





Beds are soft and beautiful;

They’re where we go to sleep.

Though we have to make do with a field of dew

If we happen to be sheep.

Beds are made of honeyed pine

Or occasionally of brass.

I suspect in Hollywood

You get beds made of glass.

Beds are where we rest our bones

And do a bit of musing.

They’re also an ideal place to kiss

Companions of our choosing.

Life is nasty, cruel and short;

Existence is so taxing

That beds were architect-designed

For snoring and relaxing.





Standards were slipping

In Great Britain.

Something had to be done!

The Prime Minister

Went into a trance

As he struggled to think

Of a slogan

Around which

The entire country could unite.

It took him a while

To get it right

But eventually he intoned:

‘Back to Basics’.

It seemed perfect,

The effect was magic!

The focus would be the three ‘R’s

(Reading, Writing and

Re-electing the Tories)

And telling fairy stories

About their personal morality.

Unfortunately they were far too late

To avoid drowning in the tidal wave

Of their own hypocrisy and sleaze.

(Without mentioning any names,

Some sordid little games

Were uncovered by the fourth estate.)

Embarrassed by this twist of fate

The PM didn’t hesitate;

He phoned up Terry Wogan

And begged him for a better slogan.

Back to Basics, he sobbed, had been a non-starter

Along with the Poll-Tax and Citizens’ Charter.





Adam and Eve lay

Battered and bleeding

After sharing an apple

In the garden of Eden.

The snake seduced Eve

With his plausible talk

Though the couple had trouble

With the pips and the stalk

Snow White fell to earth

After eating an apple.

The last sound she heard

Was her step-mother’s cackle.

But it was the step-mother

Who finally suffered,

So don’t be afraid

If an apple is offered.

Take heed of your preachers,

You parents and teachers;

The miniscule price of an apple a day

Will keep both the doctor and dentist away.





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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