The Imaginary Menagerie

By Rhys Hughes


A banshee on a rooftop
can wail all night
when the mists swirl thickly.
A whale on a rooftop
ought to get down quickly.

A cockatrice is not very nice,
in fact some say it's a curse
when it struts around in the nude.
But when it is wearing socks
I'll say it's even worse.

Medusa and a French writer:
as opposites they are polar.
They are pleased to dine on cheese
but only Gorgon Zola.

Part man, part horse,
the centaur trots around the race course
shooting arrows at the hats
worn by all the toffs
in the crowd who watch
but with insufficient force
to knock them off.

The vampire with sore gums
bites only sorghum
but he likes to reminisce
about the throats and biscuits
of priests in the seminary.
Fangs for the memory!

The simurgh is a beautiful bird
rarely kept as a pet
because few people can afford her.
Among our feathered friends
she ranks highest in the pecking order.

What has been written
about the minotaur
is true enough from feet to neck
but don't believe the text in full:
the remainder is a lot of bull.

There is a squonk who weeps all night
on the roof of my tropical bathroom.
The tears that drip through bamboo shoots
are always gloomy, fat and sour
but in them I prefer to shower.

The hydra is a kind of snake
with many heads
who for the sake of better relations
with all the nations
of humanity
decided to get an education
and began with trigonometry.
Now he's a mythical snake
with many headaches.

A phoenix has no politics
but knows a trick or two.
Perched in a bowl of cake mix
and bursting into flames
it may bake that cake for you.

A Cyclops with a telescope
can stare at distant pears,
the planet Mars as well,
but a cyclops with binoculars
has no hope in hell.

A hippogriff on the edge of a cliff
can safely leap into the void and soar
but a hippopotamus or hypocrite
would splatter on the canyon floor.

The wealth of an elf
and the security of an Elf
in our world's fairyland sector
are important considerations
for an 'Elf & Safety' inspector.

There's a manticore
behind a door
inside the betting shop
but that door is a jar
and the stopper in the top
prevents it getting out.

Although his wings are extended
the dragon wears trousers
recently mended
for courtesy's sake
because the damsel in distress
turned out to be
a knight in a dress
with an awkward curtsy.
Yes, the Dragon wears trousers
but he's flying low.

The leprechaun has worn
out his shoes
and torn his green cap
and sits on the lawn,
bottles of booze in his lap,
until the break of dawn.

The satyr is a goat man
who chases river nymphs
in a boat with leers: his plan
is to catch them in a net
but he hasn't got any yet.
He is wet behind the ears.

A Wyvern is a kind of dragon
with only two legs: the front ones
and both of those are frail.
That's why his tail
tends to drag on the ground
while he is toing and froing
and running around
to see what fun things we are doing.

The Titan
wants to bite on
the biggest sandwich in creation
but no doubt
his mastication
will meet negation
when all the filling falls out.

The happy harpy
plays the flute too loudly
or so the other Harpies claim.
The unhappy Harpy
plays a lute too sadly
to attain musical fame.
Later they will beat
their wings against the ceiling
to express their mutual feeling:
distrust, dislike and irritation.

Triffids are insipid
when added to salad
but they are always in a hurry
to jump into curry.
Who can say why? Not I.

I knew a ghoul
who was nobody's fool.
He enrolled in a university
adjacent to a cemetery.
Corpus Christi College
extended his knowledge
that corpses are tasty.

There's a yeti
in the freezer
and we don't know
how he got there.
Extracting him with tweezers
seems petty
and unfair, so we won't
dislodge him from his lair
of artificial snow
but leave him unmolested
next to the polar bear.

Always a risk
to kiss a basilisk
especially if you miss
and kiss the wrong end.

The mermaid paid with alacrity
her parking fine.
She had tethered her seahorse
to our ship's anchor.
I must descend in a diving suit
to personally thank her.

With ten long arms
he can do great harm
when he takes over
the submarine factory
by poking big holes in hulls
but the workers in Quality Control
are more afraid the Kraken
boss will simply say, "Sack 'em!"
and that's exactly what he does.

A unicorn is a horse with a spike
that can eat apples and leap a fence.
But a graph with a spike is evidence
that something isn't right.

The gnome at home
is worse than a ghost
but an absent Gnome
is a generous host.
How is this possible?

If the chimera came here
you would surely run away.
The lion part would roar at you,
the snake part would hiss,
and as you beat a hasty retreat
the goat part would bleat
at your receding feet.

The golem is a man of clay
but who can say
if the potter's wheel made him dizzy?
He never eats or even drinks
while he is busy
unless it's something fizzy.

Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.



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