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, France, Turkey, Tunisia and Kuwait. He now lives near Swansea, Wales.
His poetry has been warmly acclaimed by other poets including Andrew Motion, the former 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 jointly translated from Russian with Vladimir and Elena Grounine.
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.


I use a tortoise for a pillow;
His name is Norm.
His shell gets a free polish
And I keep my head warm.

He stays pretty still
(Except when he’s ill)
He does not yelp or squeal-
In fact he’s ideal!

I woke up late one morning
And my tortoise was gone.
I must soon buy another
To rest my head on.

But they’re now so expensive-
A cool thousand or more.
Where’s my old feather pillow?
Ah, it’s here on the floor!

(It has been my concern
I was slightly too stern
So I cry and I yearn
That he’ll promptly return…

With his feet firmly planted
And eyes narrow and slanted
He claimed I took him for granted
Which was not what he wanted.

My tortoise has returned to me!
He’d spent a week beside the sea.
If I’m as kind as I can be
He’ll have no further need to flee.)


‘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!


What does it profiterole
A man to gain the whole
World but lose his own soul?


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.


A leaking roof,
A squeaking gate.
These are the things
That resonate.
A whispered prayer
Upon our knees;
A burst of birdsong
From the trees.
A crying child,
A mewling cat;
The mail collapsing
On the mat.
The milkman with
His tinkling glass;
The steps of strangers
As they pass.
The local kids
On their clattering bikes;
The paper-boy
In his running-spikes.
These are the sounds
That slowly rouse us
Out of our beds
And out of our houses.


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, white, 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 poems are 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 poems are getting worse.

I’ll write the ninth tomorrow night
And I won’t even rehearse!
Either I’m getting better
Or the poems are 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!


Christmas is coming
And the poets are getting fat:
Their poems are selling like hot pies.

Christmas is coming
And the children have all sat
To hear about a pig with a curly tail that flies.

Christmas is coming
And I think I’ll eat my hat
If I can find a holey beret the right size.

Christmas is coming.
Oh, can’t you smell a rat?
That unmistakeable aroma when something dies.

Christmas is coming;
I’d better skin the cat.
My New Year’s resolution is to stop telling lies!


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.


The husband kicks the wife
Who kicks the son
Who kicks the daughter
Who kicks the donkey
Who kicks the monkey
Who kicks the dog
Who kicks the cat
Who kicks the kitten
Who kicks the rat
Who kicks the mouse
Who kicks the bat
Who bites the man
Who kicks the bucket.


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.


We wait in our boxes
Watching our boxes;
Boxed-in, boxed-up
But boxing on until
The inevitable arrival
Of our final box.


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.


Today I spent the whole morning
Watching some honey bees
Busily buzzing back and forth
Pollinating our plants.

When I offered them a fiver
For all their hard work
They laughed in my face
And explained they were British bees
On time and a half
And not Polish immigrants.


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,
Your 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.

Back to Basics by Simon R Gladdish

Rusty  Gladdish

Swansea, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A nature poem extolling the glories of the Welsh mountains.

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