Category Archives: Poems

Timmy’s First Christmas

Here is this year’s Christmas verse for my grandchildren. I’d intended to write a follow-up to Matilda’s Magic Christmas, but it didn’t really work out satisfactorily. So, meet Timmy…

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing was stirring, except Tim the mouse.
His Mum was asleep and so was his Dad,
But poor little Timmy was feeling quite sad.
He’d heard about Santa and all of his toys
He dropped off each Christmas for good girls and boys.

So this Christmas Eve he’d said to his Mum,
“As we don’t have a chimney, will Santa still come?”
“A visit from Santa,” she said, “Would be nice,
But Santa’s for humans; he’s no gifts for mice.”
Christmas, thought Timmy, was really unfair,
And down his nose ran a solitary tear.

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So on Christmas Eve he lay in his bed,
Thinking of Santa and what his mother had said.
Then in the distance he heard a soft jingle…
His whiskers were twisting and starting to tingle.
He crept from his bed and through the mousehole,
And spotted a sight that gladdened his soul:

A guy dressed in red with a long curly beard!
Timmy, on tiptoes, got as close as he dared.
Then Santa turned round, giving Timmy a fright,
“What are you doing awake on this Christmas night?”
“Sorry Santa,” said Timmy, “I just couldn’t sleep,
I’ll go to bed now; you won’t hear a peep.”

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He set off for his hole, but Santa called, “Wait!
Why the sad face on this joyous date?”
“Well you see,” Timmy said, “I’m only a mouse,
But I know that at Christmas you visit each house,
Bringing for all the good girls and the boys
Some sweets, or a book or lovely new toys…”

“That’s right,” said Santa, “Look under the tree.”
Timmy ran over, and what did he see?
Presents wrapped gaily, laid out in a row,
At the end a big package tied with a bow.
He grasped the box tightly between his two paws
For the label attached read ‘To Tim, from S. Claus.’

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“Thank you Santa,” he said, with a smile ear to ear,
“Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!”

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 3

Those of you who notice these things may have noticed that there is a gap on this blog betwen Terrible Tales 2 and 4. Not unnaturally, in this case, that position was filled by Terrible Tales 3, which, because of the dance connection, I posted on my tango blog. To save you having to click over and expose yourself to unwanted terpsichorial esoteria, I thought I’d repost it here in the earnest hope that it will serve as a warning to anyone contemplating tripping the dark fantastic on the heaving deck of a small to medium sized sea-going craft.

hull-trawler-ss-new-zealand_2cs

Norm’s Last Tango

Norman was a square-dance caller
On a North Atlantic trawler.
Should the crew be feeling low
He’d get them all to dosey-do.

Even in quite stormy weather
He’d gather all the guys together.
“Come on chaps, let’s get dancing.
You’ll find it really life enhancing!”

One day he thought he’d raise the bar…
Which turned out to be a step too far.
How much further could a man go
Than teaching fishermen to tango?

When walking backwards in high heels
He tripped upon a box of eels,
Which quite upset the swarthy captain,
Whose close embrace poor Norm was wrapped in.

He’d planned on cutting quite a dash
But his hopes all ended with a splash.
He’d probably be still alive
If he’d stuck to salsa, waltz or jive.

[Vintage photographs of Hull Trawler SS New Zealand adapted from whatsthatpicture.com]

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 5

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As an alternative to burial or cremation Mabel’s approach may be seen by many as deeply inappropriate. But is it right that we should criticise without knowing truly what her intentions were? She and her dear brother may have been animal lovers; perhaps Mabel saw her actions as respecting Freddy’s feelings as she perceived them, and thereby giving him the opportunity, in death, to provide for the animals he loved.

Mabel and Freddy at the Zoo

Mabel Eddy loved her Teddy
And her brother, Freddy, too.
But when poor Fred died in bed
She tried to sell him to the zoo.

The keeper smiled and shook his head,
“We have no use for Freddy dead.
If you’d brought him round here yesterday
We might have been prepared to pay.

“The lions and tigers think, what a bore,
With meat that lies there on the floor.
But their ears prick up to hear the sound
Of little lads that run around.

“We like our dinners quietly steaming
Not chasing up and down and screaming.
Lions and tigers aren’t the same
The chase for them’s part of the game.”

Mabel thought for just a tick,
“What if I poke him with a stick?
That might help them make their mind up,
Unless they catch on it’s a wind-up.”

So they threw poor Freddy in the den
And counted slowly up to ten.
A lion appeared and looked around
And spotted Freddy on the ground.

The keeper hissed, “Wait for my nod,
Then grab your stick and start to prod.”
The lion approached with steady tread,
But seized poor Mabel’s stick instead…

One mighty heave, without a pause,
Till Mabel reached its slavering jaws.
The moral of this story’s true…
Don’t take dead siblings to the zoo.

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 4

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We should all be free to follow our dreams, that goes without saying. But sometimes such dreams, or fantasies, may have unexpected consequences; whatever we may perceive as the initial benefits. This was certainly true in the case of Henry (“Hen” to his friends) Pendragon-Brown…

A Cautionary Story

My brother’s a chicken, at least that’s what he said.
He eats nothing but cornflakes and lives in our shed.
We should call a doctor, our Sis often begs;
I reckon we could do, but Mum needs the eggs,
They’re tasty and fresh; we have them on toast.
But I’m worried about Dad… he loves Sunday roast!

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 2

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Trick or Treat

We’re going out for Trick or Treat,
Dad, please drive us down the street.

Dad said No, now off you go…

So, a little petrol and a wire,
Now it’s father’s funeral pyre.

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Terrible Tales for Curious Kids: 1

A few years ago I started to collect curious, and often extremely weird, photographs. Many are quite disturbing and lead you to speculate about the story behind them. Later I began to write short verses to go with these oddities.

A few days ago I read Ransom Riggs’ excellent book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, itself inspired by and illustrated with similar vintage found snapshots. That stirred me to go back to these photographs and my stories in verse. Perhaps I’ll post a few here….

arthur-batley

No Bacon Saved for Arthur Batley

Arthur Batley thought it neat
To dress himself in sides of meat.
Until one day he ventured out
With ne’er a second thought or doubt.

His wife said, “Arthur, don’t be late,
Supper time is half-past eight.”
At nine a knock came at the door,
“Open please, this is the law.”

A policeman there with visage grave
Said, “Arthur’s gone too far to save.”
He handed her a battered hat…
“The rest’s been eaten by a cat.”

“Oh dear, that’s sad,” said Mrs B,
“Won’t you have a cup of tea?”
She wiped away a sudden tear,
“Or perhaps you’d like a glass of beer?”

“I poured it out at half-past eight,
And Arthur’s meal’s still on the plate;
You have it, he won’t be wanting that
After being eaten by a cat.”

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More Verse for Kids

Potter

I wish I didn’t have a worm called Potter
It seems like such a silly name
You may argue that in the lotter-
-y of life there are many things much worse
And I’m to blame.

But when I had him as an egg
He’d put out a cautious leg
And wander slowly round a plate I’d filled with earth.

But instead of Potter I’d named him David, or Nicholas or Paul,
Do you think by now he’d come each time I call?

Or if I’d had a bracelet carefully chiselled with his name,
Would he come and sit upon my lap and play a game?
You may believe the possibility is slight,
But I like to think at times he might.

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Matilda’s Magic Christmas

Last year I wrote a Christmas verse for my grandchildren, self-published as an illustrated booklet. This year I thought it might be fun to try to turn the verse and pictures into a cartoon video. You can see the result above.

It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, so it’s something of an experiment. But I hope you enjoy it.

For those interested in the technicalities, I used a combination of PowerPoint, Adobe After Effects, CrazyTalk Pro, CyberLink AudioDirector, and Serif DrawPlus and PhotoPlus, pulling the whole thing together in MoviePlus.

Matilda’s Magic Christmas

Matilda’s a genuine penguin, you know,
Her wings are like flippers and she lives in the snow.
But Matilda’s quite special, shall I tell you why?
One day in each year she’s able to fly.

It happened one Christmas when old Santa’s sledge
Got stuck on an iceberg, high up on a ledge.
‘Twas Matilda who found him, marooned, in despair,
Santa, his sleigh, and some tearful reindeer.

“Can you help us, Matilda, we’re lost and alone.
I’d call the AA, but I’ve forgotten my ‘phone.
We left late last night with a full reindeer flight,
But Rudolph got sick and had to go home.

It was just outside Sheffield he started to cough.
He said that the carrots he’d had for his tea had gone off.
I thought that the others would be quite enough
To get round all the children and drop off their stuff.
How many are left? Well, there’s still quite a few…
Seven million, ten thousand, nine hundred and two.”

Said Matilda, “Oh Santa, I’d love to help out.
If I knew any reindeer, I’d give them a shout.
I would if I could take Rudolph’s place on the sleigh
So you could finish your journey before Christmas Day,
But though I’ve got wings, I can’t fly.”

Then Santa just smiled, and with a gleam in his eye,
Said, “If your heart has wings
There’s no end to the things you can do.”
If Santa says that, thought Matilda, it’s got to be true.
So she wiggled her wings and proudly stepped up to the trace
And at the head of the reindeer there and then took her place.

Santa laughed loud and picked up the rein,
Reindeer and Matilda took up the strain
Like eagles in flight, skyward they came,
As Santa whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen,
On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blixen;
Follow Matilda, away through the night!”
And as the stars twinkled down, they were soon out of sight.

Matilda’s the happiest penguin I know,
Though her wings are like flippers and she lives in the snow.
You see, she’s quite special, and now you know why…
At Christmas each year she’s able to fly.

So Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year
When things seem impossible, never despair…
Remember Matilda and be of good cheer,
Close your eyes, make a wish and wiggle one ear.

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Trace

Trace_700

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November 11, 2015 · 4:47 pm

Why Write Poetry?

Poetry isn’t prose
Just written down in rows

I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it. — Rebecca Lindenberg, from Why Write Poetry?

Most poetry is not that difficult, in the way that most music is not. But it does require a degree of attention, and a willingness to relate to the experience that prose does not necessarily require.

A poem should dip deeper into the unknown than prose is able. Much ‘literary’ prose is designed to manufacture an experience in a reader by simply (or not so simply) describing it. Poetry should have more magic in it.

Or are there thoughts and feelings that language cannot touch?

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