Thursday 31 December 2020

Scarecrow Seamen

by Nick Gisburne

I swept the scowling scarecrow from my bed
And drove him up a drainpipe to the roof
He fell, a triple spin with twisting head
But lived and laughed, pristine and plummet-proof
“Invincible!” he crowed. “Let death concede!”
And summoned there one thousand of his kin
They commandeered a ship, to sail at speed
Demanding that the mermaids knit them skin
The scarecrow seamen whipped the whistling waves
But mastering the tides is almost art
Regretfully, they spiralled to their graves
Their soaking stalks washed wide, flung far apart
    Their captain could endure the shame no more
    The last to drown, his was the final straw

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Hunting Spirits

by Nick Gisburne

The spirit hunter prowls the halls at night
And with her strange devices scans the gloom
Reactions rare as these disturb her sight
The focus of the force: a single room
She shivers, knowing she will be the first
The one to prove the shadow realm is real
Domains of darkness, by the ancients cursed
Will show their secrets if she breaks the seal
The evidence is clear and does not lie
A seamless door, a simple, sacred sign
Beyond it dwell the demons all deny
Her instruments are certain: there are nine
    They strike, with tooth and claw, again, again
    And drag her ghost within - they now are ten

Tuesday 29 December 2020

A Touching Christmas Tale

by Nick Gisburne

The snow on Christmas Eve was deep and damp
And lo, there came a knocking at the door
’Twas there I saw a ragged, wretched tramp
Who sang sweet songs of Christmas cheer, and more
He touched my heart and gave my soul a shake
That one so poor as he could bring such joy
I bade him share a meal, a hearty steak
And learned of life when he was just a boy
He smiled and settled deep into the chair
His glass now drained, he drifted into sleep
I carried him outside to take the air
And sliced a knife across his neckline, deep
    He touched us all, as children, long ago
    And died at Christmas, bleeding in the snow

Welcome to the Dream

by Nick Gisburne

Good friends, we’d like to take you for a ride
A journey filled with fortune, paved with gold
The secrets of success are all inside
Step up, be quick, be confident, be bold
Believe us, every word is clear and true
This really is a chance to change your fate
The promise comes direct, from us to you
Don’t miss it - join us now, it’s not too late
Your cash is all secure, we guarantee
Invested in the safest place of all
The riches you will earn will set you free
The risk? Infinitesimally small
    You’ve signed the contract, welcome to the dream
    Now hold on to your fantasies... and scream

Monday 28 December 2020

Dinner at the Bistro

by Nick Gisburne

At first a little awkward, nervous, shy
A drink or two, to ease the nerves away
And soon the afternoon has passed us by
We share our hopes, our dreams, and vow to stay
The summer sunset bathes us in its glow
We shiver as the moon begins to rise
A thrill, an ache, a longing starts to grow
It fills our senses, burning black the eyes
They chain us to the tables as we turn
The urge to rip and render grips the soul
Between each screaming course our bodies yearn
To tear our dates apart, to eat them whole
    The fury fades, we know not why or when
    But when the moon is full we’ll dine again

Sunday 27 December 2020

The Silver Seed

by Nick Gisburne

It sailed upon the wind, a silver seed
To fall and flourish, many moons away
The wisest thought it wonderful indeed
It shimmered, shone, then faded, every day
But greedy men made copies, clean and new
They blazed as bright, yet did not lose their glow
And though these flawless flowers spread and grew
They brought no joy, no crowds to see the show
Believers found the fading flower’s bed
And witnessed there a staggering display
So bright, it seemed to burn, then withered, dead
And lifted by the wind it sailed away
    The silver seed grows hidden from mankind
    With magic we were never meant to find

Wednesday 23 December 2020

The King of Nowhere

by Nick Gisburne

He hurls the quartered torso to the hounds
And spits to curse the severed head, his prize
Upon his soul a storm of slaughter pounds
The winds of flaming fury blind his eyes
The last of them, his enemies, lie dead
But every ally fought and fell this day
From filthy fields of blood, stained black and red
A tide of hearts and hopes has drained away
He kneels, alone, one man to count the cost
And though the price is clear, the spoils are not
Who crowns this king when every life is lost?
Who rules a graveyard rank with rats and rot?
    The King of Nowhere, lord of death and war
    Remembers nothing he was fighting for

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Trump, Trump, Trump

by Nick Gisburne

Donnie the President packed his trunk
And said goodbye to the Whitehouse
Off he went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, Trump, Trump

Donnie the President packed his trunk
Election strategy bungled
Off he went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, Trump, Trump

Thursday 30 April 2020

Homeschool Science for All Ages

by Nick Gisburne

You cannot stir a kitten with a spoon
It doesn’t come with buttons, it’s a sheep
There isn’t any custard on the moon
A bag of sunlight? Very, very cheap
I’m pretty sure the internet is wrong
Just poke it in the flipper with a pen
Your magnets may be sticky or too strong
We need to turn it off and on again
Is that a proper radiation suit?
I need to know what turned your brother brown
Just tell me why I need a parachute
And why is this contraption counting down?
    It’s time for adult science to begin:
    A darkened room and half a pint of gin

A Sordid Little Secret

by Nick Gisburne

Our sordid little secret is undone
They saw us there, together, on the moors
They don’t believe we do it just for fun
And now they talk of therapy and cures
The burden on our families is real
It damages their dignity and pride
They say they cannot fathom how we feel
They wonder how our innocence has died
Together now, we rise to make a stand
To celebrate the life we choose to live
A statement to the world was never planned
But honesty is all we have to give
    We choose to wear a deeper, darker cloth
    Accept us as you see us. We are goth

Wednesday 29 April 2020

The Song of the Siren

by Nick Gisburne

Her songs are rich and sensual and raw
They flow and fade, seducing every sense
The mesmerising rhythms swirl and soar
They writhe along the walls of my defence
The music melts the shadows of my soul
I see it, sliding, surging through my chest
It drains the heart, which hungers to be whole
Surrendered to her songs, I am possessed
She tastes her lips and burns me with their lies
They drip with passion, promises and pain
And through the dreams of evil in her eyes
I see a face, my own, a man insane
    She sings, a breathless whisper, stained with sin
    And rips the strangled spirit from my skin

Assassination School

by Nick Gisburne

The infamous Assassination School
They teach us how to kill and how to die
Obedient, we follow every rule
We question nothing, punished if we try
Relentless dedication makes me strong
Effective, deadly, even as a child
I understand my place, where I belong
By fear or doubt my days are not defiled
Today is not the time to reminisce
Today we will begin our final test
The years of training, all have come to this
The chance to prove I stand among the best
    The mission: kill the others in my class
    The one who stands alone, alone will pass

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Stolen Tears

by Nick Gisburne

They snatch her from the palace in the night
The tiny princess, kidnapped from her bed
Without her joy the land has lost its light
The people soon believe that she is dead
Her magic is a rare and royal kind
A precious gift, more subtle than a sigh
The tears of any princess cure the blind
As surely as the sunrise lights the sky
The callous captors interrupt her sleep
They terrorise her young and fragile heart
To steal her tears they make the princess weep
They plague her as her spirit falls apart
    And on the day her stolen tears run dry
    She bows her head in darkness, blind, to die

Sunday 26 April 2020

Little Bo Bleep

by Nick Gisburne

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ! I’ve lost my sheep!
They fuck off every time I look away
And counting them? I fucking fall asleep
It happens to me every fucking day
The bleating bastards, stupid fucking cunts
The motherfuckers won’t stay fucking still
Just woolly fucking arseholes, doing stunts
They never fucking learn and never will
I’ve got the fucking oven on – I’m done
They’re fucking dead, the brainless little shits
I’m off to buy a massive fucking gun
To shoot the fluffy fuckers in the tits
    You think I’m fucking mad? I fucking am
    Come here, you cunts! I want some fucking lamb!

Jack and Jill and Bo

by Nick Gisburne

When Jack and Jill grew up they had a child
And took her to the legendary hill
A little light nostalgia, something mild
Perhaps they’d find another pail to fill?
The water, sold in bottles, wasn’t cheap
And Rent-a-Bucket folded long ago
But Bo, their little girl, had brought her sheep
Which scattered as the water failed to flow
So Jack and Jill pulled AR-45s
And shot the water seller in the head
They chopped him into pieces with their knives
The vinegar and paper dealers? Dead
    Poor Jack and Jill went up before the judge
    And all because they couldn’t mend a grudge

Friday 24 April 2020


by Nick Gisburne

The time has come to terminate your debt
Our covenant is cancelled, null and void
You foolishly ignored my final threat
It mentioned how your life would be destroyed
The purpose of my visit should be clear
You’ll understand the details as you die
I see you’re well acquainted now with fear
A sample of the service I supply
Within you, every nerve becomes a string
To pull the screaming puppet of your brain
And I shall make you dance, and leap, and sing
Until these hands release you from your pain
    Your name will be destroyed when I am done
    But I will not forget you were my son

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Government Guidelines: Waste Disposal

by Nick Gisburne

Your final claim for mercy is denied
No further application can be made
The euthanising service we provide
Will verify the slaughter fees are paid
Your husband should be tethered to the roof
Disposal Unit Five will be deployed
Unless your pod is radiation-proof
The property will also be destroyed
Deductions for refusal to comply
Exceed the total credits you possess
Executive directives now apply
You have no legal means to seek redress
    Please read the list of freedoms you must waive
    Be vigilant. Be dutiful. Behave.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Tenth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

By the smouldering garrison wall
What remains of our soldiers still crawl
Something skinned them alive
And although they survive
They must scream with no faces at all

As the whimpering millions fled
To the beaches their children were led
Slain for sport in the sand
At the tyrant’s command
While he bathed in their blood as they bled

With the hideous hatching complete
There was hunger for succulent meat
Human bodies, alive
Kept as food for the hive
Sick and screaming, but tender and sweet

Taking vows on the shore of the lake
Solemn promises neither must break
Each was given the gift
Of an ending made swift
With the venomous bite of a snake

See my enemies kneel at my feet
How they grovel, accepting defeat
All their deaths will be slow
As they suffer I’ll know
That my vengeance at last is complete

I’ve decided to kill you tonight
Are you planning to put up a fight?
While you lie in your bed
I will sever your head
And the chances I’ll spare you are slight

In the bio-mesh nutrient tank
I injected some cells for a prank
Tell me how could I know
Such a monster would grow?
So for doomsday it’s me you should thank

My emotions are chained in a cage
They are fighting to fit on this page
I was cheering for hope
But it’s dead, on a rope
And the winner, as always, is rage

“Oh, Rapunzel”, the sorceress said
“Let your hair down, I’ve brought you some bread”
But the girl, now insane
Flung not only her mane
For it fell to the rocks with her head

I have often uneasily wondered
If the ghosts of the lands I have plundered
Could return to the past
Would they kill me at last?
Maybe not – I have lived to a hundred

Monday 20 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Ninth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

There was no one to open the doors
To the round of robotic applause
Though the humans were dead
It could always be said
That the planet was rid of its wars

O’er the bridge of unspeakable cost
To depravity countless have crossed
Those who settle the price
For extravagant vice
In its poisonous pleasures are lost

As I witness the world at my feet
And its carpet of cruel deceit
My suspicions, my fear
Though unfounded, unclear
Are the doubts I can never defeat

We were struck by the surge of the sea
But the captain sang show tunes with glee
“Let us battle the waves
To our watery graves
But to sink without song isn’t me!”

Though my colleague is very ambitious
I am ruthlessly cunning and vicious
So to get the promotion
I’ve slipped him a potion
And hope the police aren’t suspicious

Dashing into the bank in a flash
I ran out with a bag full of cash
But without a disguise
I was caught, no surprise:
Massive ears and a ginger moustache

Though they call her the Goddess of Lust
She is covered in ashes and dust
So allergic to friction
A damning affliction
She burns at the tiniest thrust

He is Satan, Destroyer of Kings
Fear the infinite evil he brings
But his merciless flight
Was abandoned tonight
While he washes and waxes his wings

Baby dragons who cry for their cream
Simmer softly, surrounded by steam
Though they gargle with milk
In pyjamas of silk
They are never as sweet as they seem

He is truly, undoubtedly dead
There are clues in the halves of his head
One’s impaled on a spike
Through the other a pike
So he’s probably staying in bed

Sunday 19 April 2020


by Nick Gisburne

She draws upon the canvas with a stick
A clumsy daub, an awkward, trembling hand
The slathered paint is milky, rich and thick
She struggles, but can barely understand
Her failure is too blatant to ignore
The canvas is removed, dismissed, destroyed
Her eyes, disheartened, scan the filthy floor
They fill with tears, bewildered, vacant, void
The apathetic handler rates her skill
But does not see the flash of flair he seeks
He hurls the dish of cold, synthetic swill
And silencing her whimpering he speaks
    “Robotic human hybrid three-two-eight
    Assessment: case rejected. Terminate”

Remember This

by Nick Gisburne

The light of life will flicker, fade, and die
And from the darkness nothing may return
A time to mourn, to grieve, to say goodbye
But always, locked within, a flame will burn
If words were left unsaid, do not regret
A moment missed was never yours to share
Embrace the love your heart will not forget
The priceless, precious times when you were there
The years, the days, the memories, all true
Remember them with gladness in your heart
For what you meant to them and they to you
Remember what no time can tear apart
    The life, but not the memory, has passed
    Remember this, until you fade at last

Saturday 18 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Eighth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

With a knife I must sever my brain
And with this you will know I am sane
Driven once through each ear
It will free me from fear
And I think I will relish the pain

There are fish in the front of the van
And they’re driving as fast as they can
They have taken a breath
To escape from their death
In the hazardous heat of the pan

When the Empress of Evil was four
She discovered a corpse on the floor
But the rumours soon spread
That she cut off the head
And was clapping and calling for more

See the pandas eat pancakes in bed
As they study their plans for a shed
Though they’re black and they’re white
They’re upholding their right
For a palace in purple or red

At the edge of fermentable space
Lives a rakish, bohemian race
With their seven mile suits
And tyrannosaur boots
No designer can keep up the pace

In the shadows there shivered a mouse
Who had recently purchased a house
When he found but a hole
In a cellar of coal
He was quickly disowned by his spouse

In the tourney a bachelor knight
Found his armour was overly tight
Though he won the maid’s heart
It constricted his part
So their chances for jousting were slight

Said the girl with the dangerous eyes
“You’re the arrogant scum I despise
In your efforts to breed
You will never succeed
But for bullshit this finger’s the prize”

It erupts from the damnable deeps
To devour her dreams as she sleeps
But at midnight she wakes
As her sanity breaks
From the window, still screaming, she leaps

On the shores of an amethyst ocean
I partake of a decadent potion
Through its visions I gaze
On the end of all days
And to darkness I give my devotion

A Legion of Limericks: Seventh (Surreal) Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

In the land of the buttercream snow
Where peculiar custard cakes grow
It’s a mystery why
There’s a marmalade sky
When the gingerbread harvest is slow

When the Lords of Insomnia sing
It’s a frenzied and frightening thing
Every glistening voice
Is delivered by choice
In a basket of cinnamon string

Older coconuts commonly cry
From a blinkered binocular eye
As the milk sap runs deep
They abandon their sheep
With a tainted but tearful goodbye

I am fearful my mind may combust
If I carelessly kindle its crust
Weeping demons, all drenched
Wander freely, unquenched
In its sorrowful circle of dust

In a future where flowers all freeze
In a pitiful pact with the trees
As the moon birds bring frost
And the sun salt is lost
We will ride on a lavender breeze

He was painting his wisdom with cream
When the middle years started to scream
Though they pedalled through time
Soon a caramel chime
Sent their bicycles back to the dream

From the jasmine I long to be free
But the angels of ice hold the key
I have pleaded, in vain
But the blossoming chain
Drags the stem of my soul to the sea

There was fear in the strawberry stars
For the blueberries orbiting Mars
But the spiders took flight
Through the skin of the night
By preserving their judgement in jars

We destroyed the mechanical cheese
Smashed the whispering windmills with ease
But the grimacing goat
In its liquorice boat
Raised an army of marzipan bees

When the seasonings came to their senses
They had breached the lasagne’s defences
From the ruins of meat
Tiny pasta-shell feet
Held a meeting to claim their expenses

Friday 17 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Sixth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

There are body parts stored in the freezer
I am partial to brisket of geezer
I will roast him with quince
Though my girlfriend may wince
On her diet it’s tricky to please her

Of our garden the neighbours were jealous
And decided to come round and tell us
“What a wonderful tree
We have seventy-three”
Which is nice, but a tad overzealous

While it’s roasting, a body will burn
If you don’t give the carcass a turn
For the tenderest taste
Always frequently baste
It’s a talent we cannibals learn

He was mocking the state of our schools
Said our children were penniless fools
This contemptuous toff
Was unable to scoff
When we severed his family jewels

She had spent her life vainly imploring
That her husband should silence his snoring
But at last there was peace
For the snoring did cease
When she buried him under the flooring

On a rooftop the young man is slumped
Life’s a puzzle, by which he is stumped
As he crawls to the ledge
And looks down from the edge
In his mind he has already jumped

In a dying, dystopian land
Where all thought and all reason is banned
On the flag: stars and snakes
Golden promises: fakes
And the dream bleeds away in the sand

An impossible, infinite scream
Rips the ravaged remains of a dream
Eyes of terror burn blind
As a crucified mind
Builds a monstrous, malevolent scheme

As the creature releases a moan
It may curdle the blood to the bone
To its primitive cry
Comes a haunting reply
“Will you please take your eyes off that phone!”

If his face seems a little irate
That’s because he is seven days late
It’s a serious crime
But the very next time
Santa swears he’ll remember the date

How to Write a Limerick

If you look at my recent posts you’ll see I recently went from writing ‘nothing but sonnets’ to ‘nothing but limericks’. That’s little more than finding what I enjoy doing and sticking with it until something else catches my interest. Right now I’m writing limericks simply because I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I find them easy to write, which is why I’ve been writing 10 of them every day. So it should be easy to explain how to write a limerick, shouldn’t it? Famous last words!

I’m going to use this one as an example:

    In a shower of shimmering lights
    She descends from the heavenly heights
    So angelic, so pure
    Such a dazzling allure
    But there’s quite a big hole in her tights

The number of syllables is 9-9-6-6-9, and the rhyming scheme is AABBA, which simply means all the ‘A lines’ (first line, second line, last line) rhyme, and all the ‘B lines’ (third and fourth lines) rhyme.

When I was writing sonnets I regularly woke up thinking in lines of 10 syllables! Now I’m in the middle of my ‘limerick affliction’ it’s down to 9 and 6, with a completely different rhythm. The most mundane things will suddenly pop into my head:

    When I look at the carrier bag
    There’s a photograph there of a dog
    See the battery left on the floor
    What’s the time, am I ready to eat?

That was just after a quick look around the room. If I move over to haiku at some point it will no doubt change again. With haiku, I used to regularly count every syllable (5-7-5) on my fingers, but the rhythm of a limerick is easy to ‘do’ in my head:

    In the mountains of deepest Nepal

    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da-DAH
    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da-DAH
    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH
    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH
    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da-DAH

Although sometimes the longer lines have 10 beats, which goes:

    There's a mountain range up in Kentucky
    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da DAH-da

These variations are the ones I'm most comfortable with, but the ‘standard’ limerick is this:

    There was an old man from Nantucket
    da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da DAH-da


    There was an old lady from Rome
    da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da-DAH

You Need to Metre

The most important thing to remember is not the rhyme, which is easy (if it rhymes you know it), and not even the number of syllables (which you can count). No, it’s the metre, always the metre. That’s really the rhythm of the poem, and comes from the pattern of syllables, which can be short or long, stressed or unstressed. If you get that wrong, a limerick, or in fact any poem, won’t trip off the tongue – instead, it will walk into a wall!

In my examples above, ‘da’ is unstressed, ‘DAH’ is stressed. The simple way to remember it is to imagine the actual words are capitalised:

    In the mountains of deepest Nepal

    da-da-DAH da-da-DAH da-da-DAH

    In the MOUNTtains of DEEPest NePAL

‘Mountain’ works there, as do ‘deepest’ and ‘Nepal’, because they are 2-syllable words with stresses where I’ve shown them. If you replace those words with 2-syllable words where the stresses are in different places you’ll see the rhythm is immediately lost:

    In the lagoons of serene Venice

Same number of syllables, but those words do not work at all. You cannot read that in this way:

    In the LAGoons of SERene VenICE

The words are actually stressed as follows:

    In the lagOONS of serENE VENice

And that simply won’t work for a limerick. That really is all you need to remember about the form of the limerick. Get the rhyme and the rhythm working and you’re halfway there.

What About the Story?

Halfway? The other half is of course the story you want to tell. I can’t give you much advice about that because the weird (dis)connections in my brain are what lead me to my finished poems. But I can tell you one of the ways I will create a limerick, using the example I showed earlier:

    In a shower of shimmering lights
    She descends from the heavenly heights
    So angelic, so pure
    Such a dazzling allure
    But there’s quite a big hole in her tights

The way I create most of my limericks is this: I think of a first line, which gives me a general idea of the subject, then I think of a ridiculous last line, and lastly I fill in everything between.

To get my first line I often go to the ‘Daily Deviations’ or ‘Undiscovered’ sections of DeviantArt and just browse around, waiting for something to catch my eye. Or I may generate some random words. If no idea presents itself, I go to the next image or word list. Eventually something will happen. The spark of an idea will form, and that will give me my first line:

    In a shower of shimmering lights

That was, as I remember, a picture of a beautiful woman surrounded by (you guessed it) shimmering lights. So now I’m writing about a woman (who later becomes an angel), who is beautiful and glamorous. In a limerick the last line will reverse all that, drop the glamour and add a punchline.

I don’t know what’s going to fit there, but I do know I need a rhyme for ‘lights’, so I look for that in the rhyming dictionary whose praises I endlessly sing – Rhymezone:

There are plenty of rhyming words for ‘lights’, but the page highlights the most common ones, which is where I usually look first:

    bites, cites, heights, nights, rights, sights, sites, tights, whites

What immediately strikes me is ‘tights’. She’s a glamorous woman, but she has a hole in her tights. It’s as simple as that. I have a last line, the punchline to the scene:

    But there’s quite a big hole in her tights

Now it’s just a case of writing 3 more lines to build her up, up, up, so that the verbal pratfall at the end leaps out at you.

Hitting the Rhymezone Hard

‘Heights’ is another rhyme, so I thought of ‘heavenly heights’. Maybe this is now an angel:

    She descends from the heavenly heights

Here’s another thing I do when I’m writing poetry: I think of the end of the line before I know what I’m doing with the beginning, so I write it down before I forget it. So with that line I might have thought ‘heavenly heights fits’ and I want her to, er, fall down? Doesn’t fit... no other ideas... let’s just get the end of the line in and worry about the start of it later:

    She xxx the heavenly heights

Every x marks a syllable I need to fill. I also know the rhyme scheme is making me put da-DAH-da there.

My choice of words is dictated by the metre (see above), and yes, Rhymezone does let you display only words which fit the metre you need! I might want a 3-syllable word with the metre da-da-DAH, and I can find it. If it was DAH-da-da, or da-DAH-da (as here), that’s also possible. For rhyming poetry with metre, which is what I write, this is a priceless tool.

I initially though of ‘fall’ so I can put that in to find a synonym or related word, with 3 syllables, restricted to x/x (Rhymezone’s equivalent of da-DAH-da). I still don’t find one. But am I looking for one word, or do I need two? Does she fall from the heavenly heights? Small change:

    She xx from the heavenly heights

I could use ‘falls down’ here and it would fit. But if there’s a single word, a better word, I’d rather use it. I need a 2-syllable word for ‘fall’, with a metre of ‘da-DAH’. I put that in, and high on the list is ‘descend’. Perfect:

    She descends from the heavenly heights

Just the ‘short lines in the middle’ to go. The method is the same. I’m describing a beautiful angel, so at some point I found ‘pure’ and ‘allure’. To get there I might have put a few different words into the Rhymezone search, found their synonyms, and eventually discovered a couple of words which rhyme and which appeal to me (all very subjective). Here are the completed lines:

    So angelic, so pure
    Such a dazzling allure

I often think of a word but know it’s boring, so the synonym lookup is useful for that. If I thought of ‘shiny’ I could then find ‘dazzling’, which is a far better word here.

I do want to emphasise that if a word looks like it isn’t good enough (too bland, perhaps), there are probably many other words which can be used instead. Synonyms, related words, rhymes which lead to a different meaning altogether, are all part of the process. If you change the word at the end of the line, of course, you are going to need to make sure your rhymes are all intact.

I should also mention alliteration, which for any humorous poem is something you cannot ignore. That is, two or more words, side by side, beginning with the same letter/sound. Decide which one is better:

    Shower of shimmering lights
    Shower of glittering lights

I hope you picked the first one. Similarly ‘heavenly heights’ is alliterative. It’s pleasing to the senses when you recite it. Why? It just is. Don’t question the magic!

So, with those 3 additional lines, it’s done. That’s the whole limerick. Here it is once more:

    In a shower of shimmering lights
    She descends from the heavenly heights
    So angelic, so pure
    Such a dazzling allure
    But there’s quite a big hole in her tights


Straightforward? I like to think so. I’ve gone to great lengths to describe things in detail, but basically you just need to make your poem rhyme, make it fit the metre, and make it fun. It can be a time-consuming process, and sometimes it’s not easy to produce something you’re happy with, but as with many things, the work you put in makes the end result all the more satisfying.

So let me try one more, completely improvised for this journal:

    If a limerick you will be writing
    Try to make it sound really exciting
    If you can’t tell a tale
    And you think you may fail
    Add a rude little word or some fighting

That took me 2 minutes from start to finish... perhaps it shows!

Remember that you can use these same guidelines for writing any other poetic form, so long as it has metre and rhyme.

Good luck!

Thursday 16 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Fifth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

In a future with nowhere to hide
With the mechanoids marching outside
Hear the minister preach
With his digital speech
“Do you take this machine as your bride?”

There’s a laser sight trained on my head
If I say the wrong thing I’ll be dead
These are dangerous days
But I steady my gaze
“I need toilet rolls, coffee and bread”

He is master of all he surveys
His are dark and mysterious ways
Soulless eyes, cold and blank
But he works in a bank
So the bondage gear may be a phase

Bolting bank robbers quickly discuss
How to flee with the minimum fuss
There’s no getaway car
And the walk is too far
So they’re waiting outside for a bus

Lo! The Orb of  Primordial Power!
From its heart a great evil will flower
Those who use this device
Pay a terrible price
But for you I’ll do cash, by the hour

She is building a tomb in the garden
And she waits for the concrete to harden
The original plan
Was to cherish her man
But he farted and wouldn’t say pardon

There’s a unicorn stuck on my roof
And it’s phoning for help with its hoof
It’s a strange SOS
For a beast in distress
And it’s sending a selfie as proof

In a shower of shimmering lights
She descends from the heavenly heights
So angelic, so pure
Such a dazzling allure
But there’s quite a big hole in her tights

Though your beauty may falter and fade
Tread the pathways of life unafraid
Signs of age become clear
But there’s nothing to fear
You can still sue the surgeon you paid

Well I could not believe my good luck
When she told me how well she could suck
Having eased it inside
She took evident pride
As she bent for a final good flushing of the drains, after successfully pumping out all the muck

Wednesday 15 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Fourth Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

I am trapped in an echo in time
In an echo... an echo in time
In an echo... echo
Echo... echo... echo
In an echo in time... in time... time

When the candidate lost his protection
From an intimate viral infection
He was banned from the vote
When the hospital wrote
“No more polling and no more election”

As the two-headed troll pushed the pace
All his cherry-cheeked chums cheered the chase
With a pulse-popping pedal
He bagged the blue medal
A satisfied smile on each face

My bleary-eyed four-year-old daughter
Had sneaked down the stairs but I caught her
She’s a wonderful kid
But the last time she did
She covered the carpets in water

There’s a tentacled beast in my bath
And another with horns on the path
But it’s hard to complain
When these monsters have slain
All the rest of my race with their wrath

See the hover jet speed through the city
And its pilot, outrageously witty
See the fear in her eyes
As she crashes and dies
And the pulp of the pieces, so pretty

See the sacred and sanctified rock
Where the souls of our forefathers flock
In this mystical light
Feel its towering might
And from here it looks just like a cock

At the heart of this festering tomb
In the sulphurous, shadowy gloom
Squats a skeletal child
Feral, filthy and wild
Who refuses to tidy his room

She remembered when others forgot
They abandoned us, but she did not
She was thoughtful and kind
And the day she went blind
She was useless and had to be shot

He was certain he’d witnessed a ghost
In a spooky old house on the coast
“Was it greyish and dead?”
“No, more brownish, like bread
Do I get the reward if it’s toast?”

Monday 13 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Third Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

Said the frog to the fatherless flies
“You may see me with multiple eyes
But the length of my lick
And the force of its flick
Are a warning to say your goodbyes”

There is something I wanted to say
I am outing myself – I am gay
It’s my certain belief
I will find no relief
If my nature is hidden away

In my heart grows a terrible pain
I am faltering under the strain
The unbearable cost
For the love I have lost
Is the memory burning my brain

I have found an incredible power
From its menace the cosmos shall cower
But I’m lost in the game
And my life is so lame
I am fearful of taking a shower

I am waiting to see who comes by
For I’m lonely and think I shall cry
If a visitor calls
To these desolate halls
I will give him a poke in the eye

There are witches lined up in the street
All the covens have gathered to meet
But the virus is here
So the guidance is clear
Leave a space of three wands, or six feet

Idle questions cavort in my head
Are tomatoes in darkness still red?
Will the sun ever freeze?
Can a crocodile sneeze?
Are the bodies still locked in the shed?

To a city of spectres and shade
Came the mythical blood master’s blade
To the beast it was sold
For a grave filled with gold
Which was quite a lot more than I paid

Where the butterflies dance on the breeze
And the fairy lights flash in the trees
I was led to this land
When an elf took my hand
But he burst when I gave him a squeeze

She is winsome and wondrous and fair
There are flowers entwined in her hair
But this delicate lass
Has a problem with gas
Pushing poisonous pongs in the air

Sunday 12 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: Second Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

We had only just boarded the ship
When the cabin crew started to strip
On our naturist cruise
There were marvellous views
But the service charge spoiled the whole trip

As the god of fertility stood
He extended an old piece of wood
Something carved by his tribe
Which I cannot describe
Well I can, but I don’t think I should

They were trying to claw through the gate
To resist their attack was my fate
Devils gnashing their teeth
Demons drooling beneath
It’s the thing about teaching I hate

This is Jesus, burned into my toast
He’s the genuine, son-of-God ghost
And my promise to you:
I can prove it’s all true
If you send me your cash in the post

On a voyage to visit the moon
For a weekend vacation in June
We were lost in the night
Left at Saturn, not right
Now we’re landing on Venus at noon

After chasing a furious bee
I am stuck at the top of a tree
Not a bumble in sight
And I may be all night
So I hope that I don’t need to pee

I’ve been trapped in this tree overnight
With a bee keeper, keen for a fight
“All my bees have been found
Swimming backstroke or drowned
And the hives are now yellow, not white”

To the mermaid who lives on a rock
Winter weather is always a shock
So she warms up her skin
Drinking octopus gin
And her tail wears a fishing net sock

To the bon vivant, soul-sucking beast
Bands of gastronomes offer a feast
As an entrée, to start
Spicy, still-beating heart
And a buffet of bodies, deceased

When the Grim Reaper’s daughter wore white
She defended her death-driven right
“Black is dreary and dim
And the hooded cloak? Grim!
Look at me, Dad – an angel of light!”

Saturday 11 April 2020

A Legion of Limericks: First Cohort

by Nick Gisburne

To the zoo came a curious fox
Who arrived after tea, in a box
“Though my cousins are red
I’m impeccably bred
And as black as a coal miner’s socks”

Mourned a sad and lugubrious spider
“How I wish that the plug hole was wider
For it seems that the path
From this slippery bath
Isn’t obvious to an insider”

All the medical minds were desirous
Of a cure for the hideous virus
But the politics came
And diverted the blame
From the leaders who failed to inspire us

When the chieftain abandoned the hunt
The objections which followed were blunt
“We have nothing to eat!”
“We will starve without meat!”
And the loudest of all: “What a conundrum!”

In the garden of wonderful flowers
I would spend many magical hours
But the peace became strained
When the neighbours complained
“Get back over the fence – this is ours!”

In the summer the vampires of old
Serve their victims on ice it is told
Though the blood is quite pink
It’s refreshing to drink
And it tingles the teeth with the cold

The enchantment required for a curse
Was mistaken and missing a verse
Through the darkest of arts
Came a pain to his parts
On the bright side, it could have been worse

A devotion to darkness and death
Is a menace more monstrous than meth
Sorrow sickens the soul
Harms the heart with a hole
And no bloodshed will banish bad breath

All the Easter egg makers were stressed
For their foil-covered treats they were pressed
They worked into the night
And production was tight
But the chickens were trying their best

On the night of unspeakable sins
Where the dead come alive in their skins
Though the zombies gave chase
Bringing fear to my face
I remembered to empty the bins

Friday 10 April 2020

A Breach of Etiquette

by Nick Gisburne

Society has always passed him by
A lavish game in which he plays no part
His name provokes a smile, but soon a sigh
“Agreeable,” they say, “but not too smart”
The bottle, almost empty, fills his hand
Still wary of discovery, he drinks
Politeness turns its face from what is planned
But he has ceased to care what this world thinks
He pushes through the ranks to take his place
The well-groomed lords and ladies step aside
The father leads his daughter in her lace
But he, voracious, leaps upon the bride
    He rips the heart, still beating, from her chest
    A vulgar breach of etiquette at best

No More

by Nick Gisburne

I will not be a punch bag for your rage.
I will not wear the bruises of your spite.
You will not keep me locked inside your cage.
You do not have the reason or the right.
‘Enough’ is not a word you understand.
The ‘stop’ in ‘please stop hurting me’ is real.
I will not fear to fall beneath your hand.
I will not cry or beg or plead or kneel.
You hid me in this room and closed the door,
To make my world as small as it could be,
But this is when I say the words ‘no more’.
The only one who’s talking now is me.
    ‘I never meant to hurt you’ was a lie.
    Remember it, and suffer, as you die.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Lazy Days

by Nick Gisburne

I watch the sunrise drift beyond the dawn
There is no peace so heavenly as this
A state of sweet serenity is born
A lazy day of unrelenting bliss
The pace of change is perfect: slow to none
No task may tear my thoughts away from sleep
No burden, nothing waiting to be done
A sea of lazy daydreams, warm and deep
I think I may be here for quite a while
I cannot find the will to move at all
If laziness is coming into style
It seems I am completely in its thrall
    Perhaps these lazy feelings fill my head
    Because they must remind me I am dead


by Nick Gisburne

She snatches sleeping infants from their beds
The perfect sons, the daughters, sweet and pure
She brands a witch’s hex into their heads
And claims a scissored finger to be sure
Each stolen child is chained within a cave
To dig for threads of magic in the dirt
The darkness is their life, it is their grave
A world of boundless misery and hurt
But in each tiny crib there lies a curse
A changeling child, a sick and spiteful ghoul
A spirit, stained with all that is perverse
A rotten seed, a creature, cold and cruel
    The changelings spread their sorrow as they grow
    They breathe their evil nearer than you know

Monday 6 April 2020

Goodbye Forever

by Nick Gisburne

Goodbye forever, you sack of old shit
Spare me the whining, I’m weary of it
Find a new future, but lose your old face
Waste your existence in some other place
Never come knocking, whatever the year
Always know where you are welcome: not here
Sail through a storm and jump over the side
Bury your dreams in the dirt where they died
Never look back, you will never be missed
As of this moment you do not exist
Try not to look like a loser. Too late
Choke on these two middle fingers of hate
    This is forever and this is goodbye
    No second chances, just fuck off and die

Magical Marmalade

by Nick Gisburne

A trove of orange treasure, pure and priceless
Hot sunshine keeps each fruity farmer paid
No taste can supersede such flawless flavour
The tempting tang of farmer marmalade

A bear who left Peru became so famous
We still forget that every llama stayed
Their secret of success is sweet and simple
A luscious lunch of llama marmalade

When Henry fought at Agincourt for freedom
His knights all kneeled and in their armour prayed
The French, defeated, cursed his lethal longbows
And mighty English armour marmalade

An ancient undertaker’s young assistant
Enjoyed the much maligned embalmer trade
He phased out foul formaldehyde forever
Preferring now embalmer marmalade

In India when Vishnu joined with Shiva
They travelled to the temple Brahma made
And pushed between the pages of the Vedas
The recipe for Brahma marmalade

If laundering your linens leads to losses
If patterns on your pink pyjamas fade
If soaks in soap seem such a stale solution
Try scrubbing with pyjama marmalade

The Japanese discovered something special
A coffin, carved from Yokohama jade
Inside were not the relics of a ruler
But chunks of Yokohama marmalade

When Wyatt Earp played poker down in Tombstone
He shot a man who tried to palm a spade
The bullet bounced and missed its tricky target
Deflected by the palmer’s marmalade

A serpent slowly slithered from a basket
While swaying to the chant the charmer played
The secret of this mesmerising snake show
A belly full of charmer marmalade

When Shakespeare scripted scenes with strong emotion
If critics panned the way the drama played
The Bard would add a sticky stage direction
To ‘Exit holding drama marmalade’

Your tongue should never tangle with temptation
Be mindful not to throw your karma shade
Some orange imitations may be cheaper
But one day you’ll find karma gives you jam

Sunday 5 April 2020

Troll Food

by Nick Gisburne

I love the taste of humans with my tea
The smaller, fresher specimens are best
A stew with toddler dumplings, two or three
The softness makes them easy to digest
If I could choose a fine and fragrant dish
A fricassee of children springs to mind
Such dining is a troll’s undying wish
My larder holds a medley of mankind
As winter fades my appetites have grown
The smell of meaty humans fills the air
The flavour as they sizzle on the stone
Is more than any greedy troll could bear
    I think I’ll wander out there for a meal
    Hot tea, with teens on toast, that sounds ideal

Chasing the Dream

by Nick Gisburne

He found the feather drifting on the breeze
The rarest and most beautiful of things
And looking to the forest, through the trees
He spied a fleeting flash of angel wings
Enthralled, he climbed to reach that lofty perch
Imagining what wonders could be there
But far away, atop a tiny church
The angel, resting, bowed its head in prayer
He chased the dream for long, relentless days
But now, at last, it soared across the sea
And as the sun released its final rays
He wept for what he knew could never be
    His soul could only ache and count the cost
    The angel and the feather, both, were lost

Saturday 4 April 2020

Twisted Nursery Tales

by Nick Gisburne

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
And died

Jack and Jill went up the hill
In a suicide pact

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown
Ten year sentence and registered as a sex offender

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn
At your sister’s funeral

London Bridge is falling down
Another poorly managed government project becomes a drain on the public finances

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
No I’m not

Sing a song of sixpence
Or move to where there is a decent minimum wage

Mary had a little lamb
For dinner

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop
Eaten by bears

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do
Until she remembered the gun shop was still open

Who killed Cock Robin?
I, said the Sparrow
But rescinded his confession under advisement from his legal representatives

Oh, the grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
Without a condom

Friday 3 April 2020

Government Guidelines: COVID-XL

by Nick Gisburne

The fever finds a home in every throat
It claws and clings to each infected lung
The eyes begin to bleed, the organs bloat
The sinews of the limbs become unstrung
The skin is soon a loose and leprous bag
Infection starts to gather in its folds
Each tortured breath a shallow, gasping drag
The torso crusts with decomposing moulds
The viscera, distended, stretch and tear
Their septic fluids thicken with decay
The brain boils in a sludge of bone and hair
The heart pumps what is left of life away
    If symptomatic you will not survive
    Be ready when the cleansing crews arrive

The Cure

by Nick Gisburne

Act I – The Curse

The peaceful days relieved her stricken soul
But rest was all too fleeting, hard to find
Her troubled spirit faded, far from whole
The scattered pieces captive in her mind
The changes could be subtle, slow at first
A word, confused, misspoken, out of place
But in my heart I always feared the worst
And so it came, with devastating pace
I cried the day she asked me for my name
She wondered where the man she loved could be
Through bitter tears I shouldered all the blame
And searched to find a way to set her free
Her eyes saw only strangers, only fear
I swore this curse would somehow disappear

Act II – The Cure

His treatments were unorthodox, unknown
He claimed to have the antidote, the cure
What choice was there but this and this alone?
How long without her mind could she endure?
Her memories were trapped, he said, not lost
Each precious moment locked and sealed within
The chance to see her smile eclipsed the cost
I paid the price and begged him to begin
The medicine would break these secret locks
Until her mind remembered what she knew
Each stolen thought, released from every box
Would surface as her recollections grew
I longed for her, for life to be the same
To feel her take my hand and say my name

Act III – The Cured

A marvel, nay, a miracle, took place
My dreams, my wildest wishes, came to pass
She looked and smiled and recognised my face
As if a lamp light glimmered through its glass
In seven days her mind had been restored
We sang, we danced, we seized the joys of life
Her smile a priceless gift, my true reward
The one true love returned to me, my wife
We laughed as she recalled what I forgot
The healing more effective than we knew
My thoughts were sometimes hazy; hers were not
Her store of once-forgotten treasures grew
The locks fell from all corners of her mind
A cure so strong no thought was left behind

Act IV – The Cancer

The bonds were broken, more and more each day
But now there crawled a cancer with the cure
Some thoughts and dreams are better locked away
The pain of them too awful to endure
She soon remembered all she’d ever said
Old agonies, long buried, put to rest
Her darkest demons, screaming, filled her head
By each unwanted thought she was possessed
The chains of all she was and all she knew
Became a burden far too fierce to bear
No love or laughter now could filter through
Her mind was black and burned beyond repair
The cure became the source of all her pain
Her thoughts, unfettered, drove her soul insane

Act V – The Cost

I pound the loathsome medicines to dust
Yet know the hurt, the torment, will not fade
I look upon my efforts with disgust
A selfish fool, a loving trust betrayed
She lies sedated, locked inside her cell
The tight restraints, the padding on the walls
My vanity condemned her mind to Hell
Yet somewhere, in my heart, a duty calls
I hold the key to this, her prison door
A final lock now keeps me from her side
Till death: the vows we took, the oaths we swore
A bond which only madness could divide
We share the poison, share a final breath
The cure, the only true release, is death

Thursday 2 April 2020

Twinkle Black Sheep

by Nick Gisburne

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

I’m a star
Any more stupid questions?

Baa, baa, black sheep
Have you any wool?

Face palm

Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Summoning of Shadows

by Nick Gisburne

Prepare the incense, grinding soil with spice
Touch secret, sacred symbols to the skin
Bind herbs with salt and sulphur, turning twice
Release the ancient energies within
Set candles at each pentagrammic point
Arrange the crystals, each to trace its twin
With burning oils, the circle now anoint
The summoning of shadows may begin
Let bones of divination all be cast
To satisfy the spirits in their realm
Bring forth the spectral shadows of the past
With crowns of twisted willow, ash and elm
    And should these shadows burn the heavens black
    Return the spells to get your money back

Bodies in the Sand

by Nick Gisburne

She walks among the bodies in the sand
Their lifeless eyes will never see the dawn
She wipes the knife blade, turns it in the hand
And scans the bloody battlefield with scorn
She gathers golden treasures for her bag
And cuts away their talismans of luck
She spits upon the filthy, fallen flag
And slashes it to ribbons in the muck
Their ships are twisted skeletons of coal
Black cinders stain the waters of the sea
And all to raise their banner on a pole
To claim the land she knows was always free
    She does not doubt they will, some day, return
    She wonders who will live and who will burn

Tuesday 31 March 2020

The Note

by Nick Gisburne

I see the faded photograph and smile
It brings your special qualities to mind
Insensitive, cantankerous and vile
Your murder spared the whole of humankind
If I could spend a moment with you now
I’d kill again, but choose another way
I can’t be sure exactly when or how
But always and forever you would pay
I’m curious to read your final note
I found it, hidden, slipped beneath the will
It really doesn’t matter what you wrote
What words could match the magic of the kill?
    “When I am dead your punishment falls due
    The poisons in this note are now in you”

The Cull

by Nick Gisburne

We kneel within the shadow of the skull
It suffocates our dreams with dark despair
We wait to hear the calling of the cull
A breath of expectation chills the air
They stole us, broke us, shackled us in chains
The necromantic phantoms of the night
A hundred thousand souls have crossed the plains
To this, the end of hope and life and light
The brutish horns of chaos sound our doom
Appalled, we trudge in terror through the gates
The flower of our future fails to bloom
The curse of cold oblivion awaits
    We feel a presence, dripping with disease
    And fall to face the slaughter on our knees

Government Guidelines: Efficient Intercourse

by Nick Gisburne

The optimal position for your sex
Is sometimes rather difficult to find
The knees, if planted wrongly, may perplex
Please note their place correctly for the grind
The pumping apparatus of a man
Requires the space to wriggle, firm but free
Please curl the lower portions if you can
And tame the urge to panic or to flee
Permission, if provided, for the kneel
May now produce a bolder breathing rate
Be wary of a troubled warning squeal
One badly guided thrust may heighten hate
    If private parts should fail or misalign
    For further details turn to section nine

Monday 30 March 2020

The Bleeding

by Nick Gisburne

I feel it swell, a shiver of the skin
The rapture of the bleeding thrills my soul
A blissful tide of wonder washes in
But drains into a ragged, empty hole
His coat is drab and sterile, unadorned
A creamy sickness lingers on his lips
As agony returns, my screams are scorned
His sole concern, the canister he grips
The harvest feeds the witches and their kin
For him, their bitter milk, a taste he craves
Beneath the city, buried deep within
A thousand of us, bleeding, starving, slaves
    Cold cages line the walls, beyond my sight
    The bleeding lingers long into the night

Sunday 29 March 2020


by Nick Gisburne

We sail our makeshift vessels to the sun
To purge the burning sickness from our souls
In ignorance the madness has begun
A curse no science sifted from the scrolls
The fever rips at reason, plagues the mind
Tormented visions infiltrate our eyes
The worst of us, convulsing, driven blind
In panic fight the fearful for supplies
The dead lie cold, the living linger on
And none will dare to touch his fellow man
The past we sailed away from may be gone
But we will find a future if we can
    A sinister corona crowns the sun
    It burns us, but we do what must be done

Hopes and Dreams

by Nick Gisburne

The box was labelled ‘All my hopes and dreams’
It hid among the clutter of the shelf
A cardboard treasure, bursting at the seams
She filled it with the pieces of her self
The clippings cut from glossy magazines
Those perfect people, living perfect lives
The distant places, rich, exotic scenes
And all the perfect husbands, perfect wives
She saved them and she vowed to make it so
For years she planned for nothing else but this
And when the treasure had no room to grow
She stored it safely, with a final kiss
    They found a second box the day she died
    ‘My dreams fulfilled’, but nothing was inside

Saturday 28 March 2020

Remember Me

by Nick Gisburne

Remember me, remember what I am
Dysfunctional, incompetent and weak
My life, a worthless, disappointing sham
A tragedy of silence, blind and bleak
Remember me, with feelings of disdain
Duplicitous, contemptible and lost
My face, a broken mirror in the rain
A flower, overwhelmed by winter’s frost
Remember me, the promises I made
Impossible, preposterous and fake
My heart, a stolen vessel, filled with shade
A chalice for the venom of a snake
    Remember, all I say and all I do
    Remember, I will not remember you

Ice and Time

by Nick Gisburne

We climb in starlight’s frozen beams
How frail the world left in our care
As chance enslaves us with its schemes
We journey on, as best we dare

We scale the icecaps, one by one
Through mindless ocean tides of snow
All territory smothered, gone
A wasteful death march, silent, slow

We groan as we begin again
The endless cycle, still we climb
The price of life: the souls of men
A tacit pact with ice and time

Friday 27 March 2020

Captain Odious

by Nick Gisburne

He’s a killer, Captain Odious, the deadliest of men
From a kingdom lost in legend to the sea
Long defeated, long forgotten, he returns to fight again
With an appetite for treachery, and tea

Meet his putrid pack of pillagers, the Nauseating Nine
Each as ancient as the cornerstones of Hell
In their antiquated chariots they form a ragged line
They are wanton, they are wicked, and they smell

See the Dark Destroyer, Dennis, bringing misery and pain
From the osteoarthritis in his knees
He commands the Sword of Sorrows, though it’s proving quite a strain
So he gives his faithful butter knife a squeeze

Watch the wizened warlock, Walter, wave the wondrous Wand of Woe
Weaving wobbly wicker baskets with a spell
It’s a hobby, just a sideline when the wizard work is slow
But he makes a tidy profit when they sell

From the Mountain Halls of Majesty (just past the sewage tanks)
Rides the Master of all Dragons, Fred the Flap
He has journeyed many miles to join their creaking, crusty ranks
And he really needs some cocoa and a nap

The Invisible Assassin is a secret stealth machine
Hiding deep inside a fat man’s flabby skin
Though his body has expanded, still his mind is sharp and lean
Like a wine-soaked vagrant drinking bathtub gin

Ted the Torturer, the ugliest Inquisitor in town
Knows the battle will be difficult and long
For his belt is bent and broken, so his pants keep falling down
And he’s having quite a struggle with his thong

There is only one true Norman: he is filthy, he is foul
More than all the other misfits in their band
Fear the bloated Brown Avenger, leering closer with a scowl
For there’s always something sticky in his hand

And with Bob the Bloody Bowman comes the legend you’d expect
He was deadest of the dead-eyes in his youth
Sadly, Abe the Angry Archer holds the title now – I checked
Bob can’t pee into a pot, to tell the truth

Spiteful Stan, the Spirit Silencer, the cruelest by far
Wears a gleaming helmet, made from something cheap
But he died without a warning in the Buccaneers Bazaar
So the others think he’s riding in his sleep

And their leader, Captain Odious, most noxious of the nine
Reached his ninety-seventh birthday, more or less
On this fateful day of destiny his plans will intertwine
Although most of them are tangled in a mess

“Swab the decks, me salty seadogs! Splice the mainbrace! Brew the tea!”
“Haul the Jolly Roger, lads, and pass the grog!”
He has never been a pirate, doesn’t even like the sea
And he doesn’t own a parrot, just a dog

“Blood the kipper tails, ye blaggards! Pinch the rum and chip the tooth!”
“Poop the sails and dip me tackle in the tar!”
These are phrases half-remembered from a far-off wasted youth
But his all-time winning favourite is “Arrrrr!”

All the chariots are parked behind a secret Sunday lair
In the middle of the Dark Destroyer’s camp
Sticky Norman rolls the map out with a flea-infested flair
And they all avoid the yellow patch of damp

With his wizardry, old Walter brings to life the stinky scroll
Using animated beans and talking flies
It’s a clear, straightforward timeline of their tactics as a whole
But the room of vacant stares is no surprise

“Fog and fishes!” Captain Odious alone has understood
Or perhaps can fake it better than the rest
I would separate the meaning of its methods if I could
But it’s bollocks, so in short: it’s just a quest

“We should drown them, using mermaid oil to cook them in their beds!”
Says the Fat Assassin, drooling on his food
“And I’ll bring my special spider sauce in case the chaos spreads”
“In a pillage, troll tastes better barbecued”

“Let us burn their souls to ashes, dancing naked in the dust!”
Ted is keen to add some drama to the doom
“But I need to polish Percy so he doesn’t start to rust”
And he waves his special tool around the room

Bob the Bowman adds the poison to his trusty arrow tips
“I could kill a gorgon twice with one of these”
But his venom’s out of date, so you could eat it with your chips
It’s supposed to freeze the blood, but tastes of cheese

“When my dragons hear the call, we bathe the city streets in flame!”
Fred is serious, but none of it is true
Most are dying, dead or knackered, blind, incontinent or lame
And the youngest one they boiled up in a stew

Prone to fluctuating innards, Dennis modifies the plan
With the ounce of wisdom lurking in his mind
“If I’m sitting on a bucket, start without me if you can”
“I will launch my special weapon from behind”

All now sit around the table thinking harder than they should
Which for some of them means thinking thoughts at all
“Let us vote,” says Walter, “nine of us, a bond of brotherhood”
“We must all agree. No split, however small”

This is wisdom worthy warlocks wield, in weird and whispered ways
And for this approach he finds no clear dissent
So in turn they state their preference: a hoary hand they raise
As their rancid armpits ooze a fearsome scent

There are seven hands, then Dennis, from the bucket, makes it eight
Only Sleeping Stan remains to cast a vote
But deciding who should wake him spurs a furious debate
None will risk his dagger meeting with their throat

Captain Odious, impatient, raps the sleeper on the head
But the action tips him over, cold and stiff
“Bite me biscuits! Wet me powder! He be scuttled! He be dead!”
His demise is swiftly proven with a sniff

There are words of loss and mourning, there are words of grief and woe
But the eight remaining rogues unite with, “Good!”
“What a mean, sadistic scumbag. I do torture, I should know”
Teddy kicks him so his scorn is understood

“Can I put this thing away now?” Norman pokes the mouldy map
And his finger leaves a fungus-tainted print
He has eaten all the magic beans; the flies adorn his cap
And he eyes the rigid body with a squint

“What about the great adventure? What about the splendid quest?”
“What about you shut it?” Bob growls back at Fred
“We need nine to do this caper, and in case you haven’t guessed”
“We are short by one, cos one of us is dead”

“Where’s the kettle?” sighs the Captain, out of character, and glad
“Tea and toast and, oh, a lovely fairy cake!”
“Thanks for all you’ve done here, Dennis. You can drop the anchor, lad
“I just need my comfy slippers. My feet ache”

To the sound of old men grunting, Stan is strapped onto a horse
Seven chariots, one empty, wobble west
Will he get a hero’s casket? Not from criminals of course
But they’ll polish up his helmet to its best

Captain Odious is dozing in the Dark Destroyer’s chair
That’s the rum, a sneaky measure in his tea
In the frying pan, for dinner, two big T-bones, bloody, rare
Both still chew with their own teeth – they each have three

There are ballads, there are legends, of the Nauseating Nine
Of the ruthless Captain Odious they sing
But for him the greatest prize is something simple, something fine:
Boiling water and a teabag on a string

Secret Ending

As the night falls on our fable, let us wobble to the west
To the camp of seven chariots and men
With a miracle, a monumental marvel, we are blessed
For the corpse of Spiteful Stan now lives again!

“You’re a nightmare, you’re a madman, you’re an idiotic toad!”
“What the devil’s arse was that stuff in my drink?”
“You were only meant to knock me out for ten miles on the road”
“Now I feel like I’ve been buried, and I stink”

“That would never hoodwink Odious.” The warlock gives a shrug
“He’d be after us to join him in a week”
“So I had to make it terminal.” His wrinkled face is smug
“And you’re right, you know – you positively reek”

When you’re too old for adventure and you really need a rest
Read a story, take your teeth out, go to bed
And if someone tries to take you on another stupid quest
Drink a potion from a warlock and play dead

Secreted Ending

Norman? Oy! The story’s over. Yes, we’re finished. Bugger off!
Please go home and write some poetry, as planned
No, no, don’t take down your trousers! I don’t want to hear you cough!
That is sticky! Norman! What’s that in your hand?

Wednesday 25 March 2020

I Was Wrong

by Nick Gisburne

You died before I told you I was wrong
And always I regret you never knew
Emotions, running high, too strained, too strong
The bitter words too many, or too few
What more could I have done before the end
To let you know the truth of how I felt?
Yes, even now I cannot comprehend
The sense of saying nothing as we knelt
A truth is sometimes difficult to share
But this I dearly wish I could have said
I wanted you to know it, this I swear
But suddenly you fell before me, dead
    I thought the poison wasn’t very strong
    You died before I told you I was wrong

Tuesday 24 March 2020


by Nick Gisburne

They follow, dizzy, weeping, to the light
A flock of starving orphans, far from home
She leads them from the miseries of night
Towards the sacred city’s broken dome
The war is over, faded into time
But these forgotten victims still remain
A hundred souls found choking in the slime
And she, their tall messiah, knows their pain
The border sergeant welcomes them and waves
They fall, relieved, exhausted, at his feet
He chains the strong to live and die as slaves
The others he will grind as human meat
    Her payment soothes the madness in her mind
    Tomorrow she will hunt those left behind

Monday 23 March 2020


by Nick Gisburne

If only we could see inside your mind
To trace the shameful lineage of lies
The martyr, truth, is slaughtered by the blind
And hurled at those who mourn for its demise
We long to find a doorway to your dreams
To look upon the chaos in its cage
To penetrate the slander of your schemes
And find the source, the root of all your rage
The sickness of your words infects us all
It spreads among the faithful and the free
An infinite, impenetrable wall
Inside it, what perversions would we see?
    What poisons fill the void behind your eyes?
    What feeds the fraud, the fantasy, the lies?

Blood Ritual

by Nick Gisburne

He grips the slender, sacrificial knife
The wickedness, the ritual, begins
A cut to bleed the essence of his life
The caustic, crimson poison from within
Appalling threads of venom, laced with pain
Drip thickly on the body of the child
And through its cries, that sickening refrain
He smiles to see such innocence defiled
So perfect in its purity, so young
Corrupted to a miserable core
The victim, bleached and blinded, stretched and hung
Engulfed by ancient malice, wretched, raw
    The blood: a plague, an everlasting tide
    A savage curse from which no heart may hide

Saturday 7 March 2020

Epic as F

by Nick Gisburne

In the bleakest bark of night
Painted by an elder star
Long there marched a wiping light
Draining from the deepest bar

Rising to a swarming swell
Velvets hailed a winter’s cake
On the shoulders of its shell
Curled the omens of the snake

As the lanterns blamed the sea
Limping danger caught their cry
Come to pour its golden knee
On their selfish butterfly

Currying with eager scrolls
All was foggy, all was game
Yet their grey, emphatic rolls
Could not flush the feeling flame

Wretched inks were crudely penned
Sullen bruisings witched the room
Shattered stripes no charm could mend
Peelings of a stolen bloom

And the membrane of the spheres
Rose beyond the winsome dew
Thence, the tumbled volunteers
Took their nails to strike anew

Linking through the scarlet silk
Vexed, with kettled charms they cleaved
Long before the dawn was milk
Pardoned feathers all received

Pressed to glean with crooked eye
In the parlous pit of dust
Garlands from a weeded sky
Let the splintered winds combust

Now the flaxen maidens clawed
Calling supple ants of lead
Much was laddered, much restored
Verdant dreams fell overhead

Castles, filtered, flagged and sealed
Thinning as a sister’s face
In the belt, their spins concealed
Pains, pulled numb from steaming space

Fragrant shimmers stopped their words
Seeking truth with valid coin
Nudging through the shrunken curds
Nothing balanced would it join

Fractured makings skived with ash
Soon their baleful candles graced
But the leakings burned as mash
Begging, failing, charred and chaste

From the larder’s pith and light
Stealthy as a moonish crow
Finding silence blushed with blight
Tepid pressings walked in glow

Each aglitter in its clay
Much was primed to salt their souls
Loathsome triggers leached away
Fallen to the bended holes

Fulsome sendings cracked their strings
Shadows rubbed the vowelled stake
Sombre shavings, templed kings
Choked a scaly, scented lake

Now the silvers stitched their nest
Orphans beat a sceptred fist
Ribbons, exiled, bled the quest
Striding through a stubbled mist

So it clung, the sneering source
Leathered engines, plagued with steel
Shards of resurrected force
Drove the evanescent wheel

Born of rage and boiling flow
None could drum its peerless kind
Ever heaving, scalding, slow
Onward lumped its cunning grind

Yet the martyrs of the plate
Dipped their zeal with starch and storm
Bridging autumn’s throw to fate
Charged their hearts to meet its form

Long they bulled its dappled beams
Thirsting for the bait of breach
And at last their staunch regimes
Proved the curtain of its reach

Carping walls once closed to flaw
Spread their keys with swollen cast
Tongues proclaimed abiding thaw
From the bane once overcast

Think ye not to grieve with woe
Languid stigmas dogged with darn
Let their legend burst and blow
Sworn and famed in epic yarn

For this self-inflicted challenge I decided to write a nonsense poem, in the style of an epic legend. However, I could not use invented words, and it was essential to retain a sense that something is happening at all times. It would be fairly easy to write multiple lines filled with any old random words, but in doing that you would end up with a pile of gibberish. The balance of this poem was much more difficult to achieve than I anticipated!

Thursday 5 March 2020

The Whispering Man

by Nick Gisburne

Into the poisonous shadows of dusk
Pulled by a lingering tangle of smoke
Breathing the air for its delicate musk
Wrapped in the fathomless folds of a cloak
Slithers the whispering man

Here, in the alleys of danger and lust
Worthy and worthless exult in their sin
Walking in twilight, they do what they must
Pledging the promise of shivering skin

Faltering goddesses, painting their pain
Decadent flowers with treacherous lives
Panthers, who prowl in a wretched domain
Offer their flesh as the stranger arrives

Odious appetites, founded in fear
Longing to slake an unquenchable thirst
Madness, obsession, compelling and clear
Taking his silver, the victim is cursed

Heady, the sensual scent of her soul
Binds him with lechery, lured to her bed
Silent, he feeds her this crumb of control
Into his sinister scheme she is led

Smiling, she clumsily steps from the dress
Seeking approval of all that she is
Practised in pleasure, she kneels to confess
Lifting her eyes, though she does not see his

This he has hungered for, this he demands
This, from her body, her passion, her life
Slave to a pain only he understands
Slowly his fingers encircle the knife

Deep in the fathomless folds of the cloak
Forged from the elements evil has made
Born to extinguish a life with a stroke
Slender and deadly, the murdering blade

Spellbound, she watches it glint in the light
Clutches cold hands to the curve of her throat
And, through the bitterest depths of the night
Screams with a ragged and desolate note

Crippled with terror, she finds no release
Fiendish depravity darkens the door
Wielding the weapon, the promise of peace
Gently, he lowers the knife to the floor

“Kill me.” He whispers it. “Kill me,” he pleads
“Kill me.” As subtle as shadows and smoke
Life is a punishment, death what he needs
Blessed release from the shame of the cloak

Twisting the head of an intricate clasp
Heavy, the cloth at his shoulders pulls free
Soundlessly falling, released from his grasp
Burning her sight with the truth of his plea

Torments and sicknesses ravage his form
Ghoulish deformities, festering sores
Lesions and blisters, a virulent swarm
Burst from the sepsis infecting his pores

Pulled from his abdomen, cut and re-sewn
Skin strips, unpeeling, hang, tattered and raw
Clinging to cancerous muscle and bone
Only a ruin remains of his jaw

Tumours and ulcers bring pain to each limb
Crooked, misshapen, he struggles to stand
Cruel barbarities, fearful and grim
Miseries dealt by a deity’s hand

Ripped from their place on the whisperer’s back
Angel wings, symbols of heavenly might
Torn from their sockets, bright feathers burned black
Staining his cloak with the darkness of night

Wearing it banishes some of the pain
Now, he is broken, his shame is complete
Fallen from grace, from that radiant plane
Destined to walk every infamous street

“Kill me.” He yearns for it. “Kill me,” he begs
Consciousness fails her, expecting to die
Bending the tortured remains of his legs
Seizing the weapon, he whispers a sigh

Death is a blessing he cannot create
Only a sinner may sever his life
Only with mercy, not anger or hate
Kindness conferred with the cut of a knife

Straining, he struggles to fasten the cloak
Quickly, its power brings ease to his pain
Leaving the girl and the whispers he spoke
Always, forever, he searches again

Into the poisonous shadows of dusk
Pulled by a lingering tangle of smoke
Breathing the air for its delicate musk
Wrapped in the fathomless folds of a cloak
Slithers the whispering man

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Venal Verses

by Nick Gisburne

He journeys far, in storm and gale
O’er mountain, hill and glen
Yet in his quest does not prevail
The car breaks down again

Polluted, ashen, stark and grim
The shades of death and gloom
A cry. A scream. Fate calls to him
“Oy! Tidy up your room!”

My torment brings me no release
A soul burned black and bitter
In wretched hope for inner peace
I paint my toes with glitter

Monday 2 March 2020

Always Running

by Nick Gisburne

She was happy, always happy
and she had a little money
just a little in her savings
and she saw it in the window
and she liked it, then she loved it
and she simply had to have it
so she bought it, and she wore it
and she wanted me to see it
and she ran onto the pavement
she was running, always running
she was running when I met her
so excited, she was laughing
and the laughing made her breathless
but she had to find a crossing
and she saw the bus arriving
it was there and it was waiting
and she recognised the number
but it wouldn’t wait forever
and the traffic, always busy
if she waited she would miss it
but the road, she had to cross it
and the gap between the traffic
could have been a little bigger
but it looked enough to make it
and she saw it and she did it
and she ran as fast as ever
she has always been a runner
and the woman tried to stop her
and she said she almost had her
but she’s always been a runner
she was running when I met her
so the woman couldn’t do it
but the traffic, oh the traffic
it was busy, always busy
and the bus it wasn’t going
but it wouldn’t wait forever
and she didn’t want to miss it
so she did it, she was running
she was running when I met her
but the driver didn’t see her
no he said he didn’t see her
and he’d had enough of waiting
she was running, always running
she has always been a runner
and she wanted me to see it
and she knew that I would love it
and the bus, it wasn’t waiting
and it moved into the middle
and she knew she wouldn’t catch it
and the traffic was behind it
and she must have seen it moving
but she didn’t see the driver
and the driver didn’t notice
and he drove a little faster
and he said he never saw her
she was there and she was running
she has always been a runner
she was running there to catch it
but she never could have made it
and she never should have done it
and the driver couldn’t help it
and he never could have stopped
and now she’s dead.

She had always been a runner
she was running when I met her
she was running, always running
and she wanted me to see it
and I saw it and I loved it
and I put it in the coffin
and I wish I could have told her
that I love her more than ever
but I can’t.

Sunday 1 March 2020

Deep and Red

by Nick Gisburne

The ritual defiles each waking day
We wait, and know that one of us will die
Two savage cuts will mark the victim’s head
The scarlet cross of judgement, deep and red
Relief for those untouched, those free to cry
Cold silence from the one they take away

Yet still our captors find another way
To magnify the torment of the day
They leave, and when our eyes no longer cry
At sunset, as the day begins to die
When evening brings the shadows, deep and red
They come to find the mark upon the head

She kneels before them, slow to lift her head
Pale fingers try to brush the hair away
It mats and tangles, bloody, deep and red
This simple moment ends her final day
They lead her into darkness, there to die
She screams, a twisted, agonising cry

We hear the bullet; silence kills her cry
The cross a shattered target on her head
This is no way to live, no way to die
Together we must build a better way
And long before we greet the break of day
On all our heads are crosses, deep and red

Their disbelieving eyes blaze, deep and red
And we who stand before them do not cry
They leave us, but do not return this day
Each mark protects the mind within its head
Together we have found a better way
Together, we no longer fear to die

Tomorrow, doubtless, one of us will die
But we will bleed defiance, deep and red
The cuts, the crosses, none will wash away
And if we falter, if we fall and cry
Or face a thousand bullets to the head
At least we learned to live for one more day

A sestina – one of my favourite poetic forms, which is why this is now my fourth.

The narrative is not based around any true historical event. This was my attempt to capture the strength of the human spirit. When all hope seems lost, sometimes we can find a tiny light in the darkness.

After writing several sestinas, I still cannot find a way to appreciate the need for the 3-line envoi, which is supposed to be attached to the end of the poem. It really stands out like a sore thumb and wrecks everything I’ve tried to build. It’s the equivalent of watching a movie, seeing it coming to a perfect conclusion, and then having a narrator say, “And the moral of the story is, don’t trust anyone called Darth.” Believe me, I tried to write one, but it didn’t work for this poem at all, so in this case there is no envoi.

Note that I did add an envoi in my very first sestina, The Jagged Killing Knife, but perhaps I was just lucky, or the narrative took me in a fortunate direction. I may think about the ending before the beginning next time, to see what I can come up with.

I found a lovely quote from Stephen Fry, in his book The Ode Less Travelled, at the start of his section describing how to create a sestina:
This is a bitch to explain but a joy to make.
My thoughts exactly!

The Little Merman

by Nick Gisburne

I’m a little merman
Short and stout
Top half builder
Bottom half trout

Saturday 29 February 2020

The Book of Dreams

by Nick Gisburne

The book of despicable, dangerous dreams
Describing a path some are fearful to leave
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

A smokescreen for villains and vicious regimes
Its narrative twisted to cheat and deceive
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams

A hollow collection of arrogant schemes
Imposed on the gullible, needy, naïve
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

A banner for war and a shield for extremes
A licence to kill for the minds who believe
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams

A river of lies fed by poisonous streams
The wine of salvation, which none shall receive
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

Its doubters denounced with intolerant screams
The death rites of freedom, for which we should grieve
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

Friday 28 February 2020

Spider Dogs

by Nick Gisburne

When Annabella Winterbottom woke to face the day
She loved to run around in pink pyjamas and to play
But hers was not a morning chasing unicorns, oh no
This time, when Annabella pulled the curtain, she saw snow

She scrunched her little eyes up tight and looked at it with awe
She’d never seen the snow in all her years (not many – four)
So Annabella ran to ask her mother, who said this:
“I’ll let you play outside in it, but first I’ll need a kiss”

With gloves and boots and hat and scarf and layers stuffed beneath
She giggled as the cold air put a chatter in her teeth
And stomping like a tiny giant, up the path she went
To fill the yard with footprints was her serious intent

Quite soon, it seemed, she heard her mother shouting, “Grandpa’s here!”
And Annabella Winterbottom gave a chilly cheer
She dashed inside the kitchen with her hands piled up with snow
If anyone could solve this winter puzzle, he would know

“Oh grandpa, is it magic? What has made the world so white?
Did fairies bring it, like they make the flowers and the light?
And why is it my cheeky cheekbones tingle with the cold?
I always ask you first because you’re very, very old”

While grandpa scratched his hairy chin, he pondered on a thought
“When I was young, no bigger than a goblin, I was taught
That snow is spread to catch the flying snowmen when they land
And you, my dove, have pieces of their pillows in your hand”

She gasped and threw the snow (or what was left of it) outside
Her plans to help the snowmen measured twenty grandpas wide
Their carpet she had trampled, but resolved to make amends
If snowmen came to visit they would need some little friends

“I need a snowman family so they can come to stay
Like mother, only better, and with not so much to say”
Her mother whispered, “That’s my child?” then louder, “Love you too”
But Annabella pointed at her grandpa. “I need you!”

“You go ahead,” said mother, “I need something from the shops
But don’t do everything she says, she really never stops”
He smiled and sighed, “I’m in control.” Yet in his heart he knew
That grandpas always do what Annabellas say they’ll do

She pulled him to the garden, to the land of ice and snow
“I need three heads, about this big. Go on then, grandpa, go!
And while he rolled the snow up in a rounder, bigger ball
She gathered twigs and sticks and piled them up against the wall

“You’ll need some coals for eyes,” he said. “A carrot for the nose”
A hat, a scarf, and buttons from his belly to his toes”
“What do you think we’re building? This is not some kind of man
We’re making giant spider dogs, the best way that we can”

Her grandpa said, “Ahh... spider dogs, I really should have guessed”
And wondered if this darling child might be some kind of test
She stamped her foot and pouted as she sent him back to work
But wandered off, while in his mind the doubts began to lurk

“Is that a...?” Oh dear me, it was. A long and slim device
She pushed the black remote control in sideways, smiling. “Nice!”
“Well that’s the mouth and teeth done, so I’ll need to find some eyes”
Poor grandpa kept on rolling. “That should be a nice surprise”

“I got these from the bathroom, not too long and not too thick”
She bashed assorted lipstick tubes in smartly with a brick
“A hairbrush makes the perfect nose.” So that is what they got
“And dried spaghetti hairstyles.” Was she joking? She was not

“I think we’ve done enough now, sweetheart, let’s go back inside”
The worried grandpa wondered if he ought to run or hide
But Annabella Winterbottom said, “Just work, don’t talk”
“I’m trying to decide how fast a spider dog can walk”

Each leg was now a branch she roughly twisted, bent and shaped
While on the whole creation dustbin liner bags were draped
She pulled more branches from her stash to make each dog a nest
While grandpa worried if she’d had her senses repossessed

“They just need names.” Arms folded, she inspected them with pride
“That’s Reaper, this is Dead Bone, and the shy one, Demon Tide
The snowmen won’t be lonely now. Each one can have a pet
Thanks grandpa, that was fun, and mum will love it too, I bet”

The car crunched up the driveway, back from shopping in the cold
And somehow grandpa suddenly felt very, very old
“I’m home!” called mother. “Sorry, someone stopped me for a chat
Have you been good? Oh, holy f***ing sh** balls! WHAT IS THAT?!

She swept into the garden as a storm raged in her eyes
And grandpa now regretted never making a disguise
Three angry looking spider dogs, remote controls for teeth
Gazed up at them with lipstick eyes, a hairbrush nose beneath

Their legs were poised; it seemed they might escape at any time
And that was grandpa’s new regret – if only he could climb
But Annabella Winterbottom’s heart was filled with joy
“The snowmen will be coming soon. I hope we get a boy!”

“Inside,” said mother’s gritted teeth. “Don’t want to catch a chill”
And grandpa’s final, deep regret – he hadn’t made a will
“My spider dogs will guard the house!” proclaimed the gleeful child
She left to change, but mother slowly locked the door and smiled

The war, one-sided, short and sweet, was very, very loud
With mother talking, grandpa not – who fights a thundercloud?
But families must get along, hostilities will cease
And once reminded who was boss (the women) there was peace

So Annabella slept that night with one thing on her mind
She dreamed of what the snow would bring, what magic she would find
And walking on the winter clouds, beyond the freezing fogs
Three snowmen flew above the house, with three young spider dogs