A Tribute to Edward Lear: Humour, Limericks & More…

The Owl & the Pussycat. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Edward Lear, born 209 years ago on 12th May, not only popularised limericks, but wrote fabulous humorous verses to laugh away our fears. Rhys Hughes, on our editorial board, has written an essay to contextualise the poem to our modern day needs and even offered a hilarious conclusion to the poem. Click here to read his tribute to the great humorist, Edward Lear (1812-1888) in Poetry, Poets and Rhys Hughes.

As a tribute to the wonderful world created by Edward Lear, we are also publishing two limericks here, contextualising the humour to our needs and times.

Amidst the new wave of coronal graves, 
A secret  was withheld, even waived. 
People who vote 
Will turn into goats
And thus, be from the pandemic saved.

It came to pass in the distant land of Tierds, 
Wisdom was measured by the length of beards. 
They let it grow in undeterred ways
Till it became quite the craze
To participate tripping in a hirsute race unsteered.

Humour is the best weapon to battle fear. Click here to read some more limericks we brought out to battle our pandemic fears in Limericks: Of Donkeys & Corona.



Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Lear and Far

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
          His nose,
          His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,  
          The moon, 
They danced by the light of the moon.

Beyond the Owl and the Pussycat

Courtesy: Creative Commons

The most famous poem written by the grand nonsense versifier, Edward Lear, is the one about the owl and the pussycat eloping together, and with the possible exception of ‘The Jumblies’ it is his best too. One of the curious things about this marvellous flight of silly fantasy is how it seems to demand a sequel. And sequels have been provided, one by Lear himself. Why this should be the case remains a minor mystery. No one to my knowledge has ever tried to write a sequel to his other poems, not even he.

It is not enough to state that the original story of the owl and pussycat lacks a convincing resolution. So do most of his other poems. No, there is a special quality about this work, about the adventure of two animals, one feathery, the other furry, that encourages further speculation on what might happen to them next. We extrapolate the action in our minds and frequently we are tempted to write down what we think could be a suitable or surprising continuation. But none of the sequels have become well-known.

The owl and the pussycat went to sea, they were married and danced in the light of the moon. So far, so good. Lear originally wrote the poem for a three year old girl, Janet Symonds, who was the daughter of a close friend. Might a young child have understood words such as ‘runcible’? No, but that word is an invented one anyway, coined by Lear for this poem, and though it has entered the dictionary nobody is quite clear as to what it means. My own dictionary, a battered old dusty thing, claims that a ‘runcible spoon’ is a curved fork. I have the option to believe that definition and I decline.

Lear liked the word he had coined so much that he spent it freely in other poems, obscuring the meaning still further. The enthusiastic reader can find a ‘runcible hat’, ‘runcible wall’, ‘runcible cat’, ‘runcible goose’ and ‘runcible raven’ in his extensive works. It is a satisfying word and that is sufficient to justify its frequent use by him or anyone else. Lear was a primarily a visual artist and often illustrated his own poems and there exists his own drawing of the famous ‘runcible spoon’ in the beak of a bird known as the ‘dolomphious duck’ who employs it to scoop up frogs.

That should have settled the matter. The ‘runcible spoon’ is a type of ladle. But in fact nothing was settled. British national newspapers published letters from readers demanding to know what the thing was. Other readers answered with all the knowledge, or fancy, at their disposal. It became a spoon named after a butler who obsessively polished cutlery until it changed shape. Or it was a spoon with a sharp cutting edge that ought to remind the person who used it of the Roncevaux and the battle fought there with swords that feasted on the tasty morsels inside the tin can armour of the troops engaged in the fighting. And yet speculations like these are doomed to defeat. ‘Roncevaux’ sounds nothing like ‘runcible’ and the quince enjoyed by the owl and pussycat certainly has a taste different from that of fallen hacked knights.

To focus on one word in a marvellous verse narrative that includes perilous ocean crossings, forbidden romance, mercantile pigs and serenades seems petty in the extreme. Let us agree that ‘runcible’ is a fine word and leave the deeper question to future generations to solve. It will surely be more fruitful to consider the epic journey freed from the mooring ropes of semantics. The owl and the pussycat set out to sea in a ‘pea-green boat’. It is not revealed whether this boat belongs to them or whether they have requisitioned it. They carry supplies with them in the form of honey and plenty of money and it is stated plainly that this money is ‘wrapped in a five-pound note’. Now that is a peculiar assertion for Lear to make. Why wrap money inside more money? Five-pound notes back in his day were large, more like small towels than the kinds of banknotes we are familiar with. Have these two intrepid beasts turned the five-pound note into a parcel that contains gold coins? It is hardly a safe place to conceal valuables. A thief who steals the five-pound note will take the rest unintentionally. And they are at sea. Are there no pirates in these waters?

I will say nothing about the fact that owls and cats are not generally known for forming amorous relationships with each other. That would be crass. But it is true that the larger species of owl is a menace to the domestic cat and would rarely hesitate to swoop and grab one for lunch. Yet love flourishes in the most unlikely of settings and circumstances. Better to mind our own business and not pry into private matters. The owl and pussycat wish to elope and our duty is to stand aside and let them do so. The owl turns out to be a competent musician despite lacking fingers and plays the guitar for the pussycat while singing songs of charm and sweetness. Compliments are exchanged between the pair and the pussycat soon urges marriage as a most desirable development. Yes, the owl is willing but the couple have no ring. Impediment!

They sail away for a year and a day to a land ‘where the Bong-tree grows’. To spend so long at sea without making landfall in such a tiny vessel is really an achievement. How much honey did they take with them to last so long? It seems feasible that they supplemented their diet with fish caught fresh from the ocean or perhaps with migrating birds that the owl would be able to intercept. We who live on land have no right to criticise. On the island they discover a pig with a ring in his nose. Yet he is a free pig, owned by no one, and presumably the ring is decoration rather than a symbol of servitude. We see in our modern age how many people wear jewellery in their flesh that has no deeper meaning than style and fashion. Buccaneers originally wore gold earrings to pay for their funerals if they were killed in a skirmish. Contemporary men wear earrings perhaps to look like buccaneers. In the first case, the purpose is more important. In the second case, it is the appearance that matters. Who can say what reason the pig has for his ring? Lear tells us that this pig is actually a ‘Piggy-wig’ and there might be a clue to some esoteric status in that suffix.

The pig agrees to sell the ring for ‘one shilling’. It is doubtful whether the pig has any spare change in such a remote location. Therefore the shilling must be a coin, part of the money wrapped in the five-pound note. Why protect the token of lesser value with the token of greater? It makes no sense. The paper banknote is likely to have been splashed by water during the crossing. It would be very improbable for a sea voyage of 366 days to be entirely storm free. Paper turns soggy, metal does not. To cover the five-pound note with the shillings is the sensible thing to do, and store them in the driest part of the boat. But who am I to give advice to these characters? They have been successful in all they have so far attempted. The transaction is made and the ring is handed over. A turkey who lives on a hill agrees to marry them the next day. The ceremony is completed and the nuptial night is celebrated by a modest feast and a corybantic dance on the sand in the bright moonlight.

How marvellous! How wonderful! Why do we feel that more needs to be told? The narrative is incomplete, of course. Too many questions remain to be answered. But why do we insist on learning more about the owl, the pussycat, the world that is theirs? Once again, I maintain that this curiosity extends to no other of Lear’s poems. We read about the ‘Dong with the Luminous Nose’ and we are satisfied with what we are given. None of the limericks demand further action. Could it be simply that the poem is so nice we wish it to continue? That we are dissatisfied with its brevity? Lear must have felt the same way because he began writing a long sequel but it was never finished. What remains is truly a peculiar work. Although it is never stated explicitly that the owl is male and the pussycat female, it is certain that this is a heterosexual pairing because in Lear’s fragmentary sequel the couple have children. ‘The Children of the Owl and the Pussy-cat’ was published posthumously in 1938, long after Lear’s death. Let us now consider what happens in that narrative.

The children of the two voyagers are part fowl and part feline. They love to catch and eat mice. They take up the story and reveal that they live on the shore of Calabria. Does this mean that the land where the Bong-tree grows is part of Italy? Or did the couple move from the place where the pig married them? The cat climbs a tree one day and falls to her death. The owl is now a single parent but he rallies and does his best to look after the children. “Our owly father long was ill from sorrow and surprise / But with the feathers of his tail he wiped his weeping eyes. / And in the hollow of a tree in Sila’s inmost maze / We made a happy home and there we pass our obvious days.”

Other owls visit them and bring them news of the outside world, but this is regarded as nothing to be grateful for because the children “take no interest in poltix of the day”. The money has almost run out but the owl still plays on the guitar and sings songs to nobody in particular. The sequel breaks off abruptly. It is a rather sad set of rhymes but the tale it tells is no more implausible than the original elopement. The pig and the turkey play no part in the events. Nor is it revealed exactly how many children there are.

Beatrix Potter, however, did write more about the pig. ‘The Tale of Little Pig Robinson’ is a prequel that relates the background of the pig. No one has seen fit to write in greater depth about the turkey and that is a shame. But over the decades that followed, a few more details emerged about the owl and the cat. In the 1977 animated film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the character Owl mentions that it was a relative of his who went to sea in the pea-green boat. Eric Idle, former member of the Monty Python team, has penned an apocryphal work about what occurred between the owl and pussycat’s marriage and the fatal accident. ‘The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat’ features a tense episode in which the couple are attacked by a band of ravenous rats. A heretical text published in the Roald Dahl Treasury is set in an alternate world in which the owl offers gin to the pussycat and so she rejects him. The comedian Stewart Lee has also created an extended version of the story. None of these sequels dispel the feeling that there is a lot more to be told about the remarkable owl and pussycat.

I have made three or four attempts to write a sequel myself. I will leave you with arguably the most appropriate one.

“Mayday! Mayday!” hooted the Owl
as the pea-green boat began to sink.
“We’re low on honey and plenty of money
won’t serve for a life-raft, I think!
The Pussy-cat can’t swim and even I won’t
be able to flap as far as the shore.
We’re in the drink of an appalling bay
and drowning seems the only way
        that this unfunny day
         is going to finish at all.”

“Don’t panic,” said the confident voice
over the crackling radio static.
“The Royal National Lifeboat Institutional Society for the  
      Protection of Talking Fictional Animals is coming to you 
       without delay.”

            And so it was.

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.




Borderless, April, 2021

Greetings from Borderless Journal for all Asian New Years! Click here to read our message along with the video and a translation of a Tagore song written to greet the new year, with lyrics that not only inspire but ask the fledgling to heal mankind from deadly diseases.


New Beginnings

A walk through our content and our plans for the future. Click here to read.


In Conversation with Arundhathi Subramaniam: An online interview with this year’s Sahitya Akademi winner, Arundhathi Subramaniam. Click here to read.

Sumana Roy & Trees: An online interview with Sumana Roy, a writer and academic. Click here to read.


(Click on the names to read)

Arundhathi Subramaniam, Jared Carter, Matthew James Friday, Michael R Burch, Aparna Ajith, Jenny Middleton, Rhys Hughes, Jay Nicholls, Achingliu Kamei, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Smitha Vishwanath, Sekhar Banerjee, Sumana Roy

Photo-poetry by Penny Wilkes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

With an introduction to Blood and Water by Rebecca Lowe, Rhys Hughes debuts with his column on poets and poetry. Click here to read.


The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Fazal Baloch translates the eminent Balochi poet, Akbar Barakzai. Click here to read.

Malayalam poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Shylan from Malayalam to English. Click here to read.

Tagore Songs in Translation

To commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary, we translated five of his songs from Bengali to English. Click here to read, listen and savour.

Tagore Translations: One Small Ancient Tale

Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekti Khudro Puraton Golpo (One Small Ancient Tale) from his collection Golpo Guchcho ( literally, a bunch of stories) has been translated by Nishat Atiya. Click here to read.

Musings/Slice of Life

Pohela Boisakh: A Cultural Fiesta

Sohana Manzoor shares the Bengali New Year celebrations in Bangladesh with colourful photographs and interesting history and traditions that mingle beyond the borders. Click here to read.

Gliding along the Silk Route

Ratnottama Sengupta, a well-known senior journalist and film critic lives through her past to make an interesting discovery at the end of recapping about the silk route. Click here to read and find out more.

The Source

Mike Smith drifts into nostalgia about mid-twentieth century while exploring a box of old postcards. What are the stories they tell? Click here to read.

Lost in the Forest

John Drew, a retired professor, cogitates over a tapestry of the Ras lila. Click here to read.

Tied to Technology

Naomi Nair reflects on life infiltrated by technology, by Siri and Alexa with a tinge of humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of a Backpacking Granny

In Inspiriting SiberiaSybil Pretious takes us with her to Lake Baikal and further. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Tributes & AttributesDevraj Singh Kalsi pays tribute to his late mother. Click here to read.


Reflecting the Madness and Chaos Within

Over 150 Authors and Artists from five continents have written on mental illness in an anthology called Through the Looking Glass. Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist and writer and editor, tells us why this is important for healing. Click here to read.

At Home in the World: Tagore, Gandhi and the Quest for Alternative Masculinities

Meenakshi Malhotra explores the role of masculinity in Nationalism prescribed by Tagore, his niece Sarala Debi, Gandhi and Colonials. Click here to read.

A Tale of Devotion and Sacrifice as Opposed to Jealousy and Tyranny

Sohana Manzoor explores the social relevance of a dance drama by Tagore, Natir puja. We carry this to commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary. Click here to read

Photo Essay: In the Midst of Colours

Nishi Pulugurtha explores the campus of a famed university with her camera and words and shares with us her experiences. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

Oh, That lovely Title: Politics

A short piece by Bhaskar Parichha that makes for a witty comment on the forthcoming Indian elections. Click here to read.



Rakhi Pande gives us a story about a woman and her inner journey embroiled in the vines of money plant. Click here to read.


A sensitive short story by Sohana Manzoor that makes one wonder if neglect and lack of love can be termed as an abuse? Click here to read

Ghumi Stories: Grandfather & the Rickshaw

Nabanita Sengupta takes us on an adventure on the rickshaw with Raya’s grandfather. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: The Husband on the Roof

Carl Scharwath gives us a story with a strange twist. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: Flight of the Falcon

Livneet Shergill gives us a story in empathy with man and nature. Click here to read

The Literary Fictionist

A playlet by Sunil Sharma set in Badaun, The Dryad and I: A Confession and a Forecast, is a short fiction about trees and humans. Click here to read.

Book reviews

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Reconciling Differences by Rudolf C Heredia, a book that explores hate and violence. Click here to read.

Nivedita Sen reviews Nomad’s Land by Paro Anand, a fiction set among migrant children of a culture borne of displaced Rohingyas, Syrian refugees, Tibetans and more. Click here to read

Candice Louisa Daquin reviews The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the last by Azra Raza. Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, the focus is on media and its impact. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selection, April 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Blood and Water by Rebecca Lowe

This is an excellent debut. Within only a few pages I knew I was in the presence of a real poet. What I mean by this is that the author clearly has a true lyrical sensibility and is able to project it concisely, precisely and powerfully into the reader’s mind. There are many superb poems that exist that were written by authors without this sensibility. Those poets have relied on craft, luck or inspiration, or even the sheer momentum of originality, and everything has worked out for the best. But when we feel we are in the presence of a real poet we know that nothing is left to chance.

This doesn’t mean that the poems weren’t sweated over, rewritten, grappled with. I make no suggestion that poetry flows without any trouble from the pen of a real poet, but one thing is sure, which is that the reader of a real poet soon develops a deep faith in the author and is willing to go quite far on the poet’s future journey, no matter how tortuous the way turns out to be, without becoming discouraged. I found that reading the poems in this book filled me with confidence in the voice of the poet. I turned the pages trustingly rather than hopefully. The poet almost adopts the role of a guide, leading the reader, who is now a sort of pilgrim, into the mysterious territory of the work, guiding them safely to destinations that are also resolutions. And it is all very satisfying.

The range of the poems in this volume is impressive. There is a mystical tone to many, but others are pragmatic, grounded in this world, full of raw emotions transmuted into beautiful words by the alchemy of perfectly honed and tuned words, phrases, lines. The balance of these poems is a delight. They all inhabit their own length exactly, without wasted words or abrupt dislocations. There are poems about motherhood, wistfulness, daydreaming, human connections. So far, so good, but there is nothing in these themes, despite the wonderful treatment they are given here, that one can’t find in innumerable debut poetry collections. The book bursts out of the typical debut poet’s emotional restrictions when it deals with elements that are more fantastical. This is not to say that these wilder and more outward poems lack emotion. On the contrary, the emotion returns and surrounds them, but the effect is heightened. There is now adventure as well as introspection, action as well as feeling. I appreciate the blend, the variety, the vigour, the echoes of legends, tall tales, myths.

The poet has given permission for two poems from the collection to be quoted in full by me. The truth is that I could have opened the book at random and selected any two to justify my praise of this volume. There are no weak poems in the book at all, no fillers. But I have chosen two that align most closely with my own taste. The poet states that ‘Humans Become Fish’ was inspired by the artwork of an artist named Natalie Low but it reminds me of the first novel of one of my favourite writers, Inter Ice Age 4 by Kobo Abe. My second choice is the wonderfully evocative and melodic ‘Night Fantasy’, a sombre yet not unhappy nocturne.

– Rhys Hughes


We have learned to breathe underwater,
traded our salt-choked lungs for gills,
At first it was difficult, many died.
But slowly we trained ourselves
to become elemental,
Our filament fingers,
scraping the seaweed
from foamed faces,
became fine-feathered fins.
Last of all to go, was the legs,
We were loath to lose them,
but one day, after years of running
along the bottom of the ocean,
we found we could fly.
We flicked out new-grown tails,
somersaulted bubbles and swam,
Our pellucid eyes bulging,
Mouths an open question,
And made our homes
among the reeds and coral.

Lately we have lost all power of speech,
but find ourselves able instinctively
to feel the shoal’s clamour,
Our sleek armoury of scales
Streamlined to the flow.


Last night, we were all at sea,
tossing and turning on the churning waves,
billowed up on the briny foam-flecked
spatter of a white-horse gallop,
we slipped into wet pillow worlds
where fronded whirlpools
sucked and stranded
the matchstick masts
of our promises and dreaming
and dashed them
cruelly on the
broken rocks of the night,

See how I lengthen my footsteps
along acres of untamed sands,
how the tides suck away at my prints,
until all that remains is a
splinter of moon dust;
on the shallows
of your sleeping.

Rebecca Lowe

Rebecca Lowe is a journalist, poet and co-organiser of Talisman Spoken Word open mic and Swansea Poets for Peace. Her poem ‘Tick, Tick’ won the Bread and Roses 2020 Award. Her poetry has been featured on BBC Radio and published in many anthologies. Blood and Water is her debut poetry collection.


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.



Humour Poetry

Kissing Frogs

By Rhys Hughes

Kissing frogs is
sometimes a wise thing to do
but mostly no,
it’s not. They may
turn into a prince, true,
or they may turn into
something different, a thing
that will make you wince.
Who knows? I don’t.

A romantically inclined girl
with amorous curls
tumbling over her shoulders
was picking her way
one day along a narrow track
liberally strewn with
boulders. Unhappy was she
with her family and desperate
to move out of her home
and so she liked to roam
while daydreaming
of magical encounters.

On the rim of a pool
she spied a frog sitting
on a log and she said
to herself, “If I kiss his lips
maybe my wish will be granted.”
With excitement she panted
and supposed that this amphibian
had been sent by a god
slanted in her favour
so right on the meridian
of his mouth she planted a smacker
with a passionate flavour.

Oh dear! Expectations
are often thwarted and when all the
mistakes of humankind are sorted
and noted down
the assumption that a kissed frog
will always turn into a prince
must certainly be somewhere on the list.
It was the girl who changed!
Her personality remained the same, yes,
but her outer form
became perfectly frog-like
and now the frog on the log
who had long been alone
had a female to call his own
and he kissed her lips
to express his amorous nature.

But the lips of a frog
have a magical force and no sooner
had the kiss been delivered
than his bright green darling turned
into a handsome prince. He winced
if frogs can be said to wince at all
and his disappointment was evinced
by the fact he hopped away.
What use is a prince to a frog?
Let’s take this absurdity no further.
The prince turned on his heel
and went back along the difficult track
to reconcile himself with
a very surprised mother and father.

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.



World Poetry Day, 2021

Celebrating Poetry without Borders

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name”

(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer's Night's Dream,1596)

Like clouds float, words waft through currents of ideas and take shapes and forms. We celebrate poetry across the world, across space and time, with the greatest and the new… our homage in words to the past, present and future…

A paean to the skies, the Earth and empathy with nature sets the tone for this poetic treat. I offer you a translation/transcreation of a Tagore song, from the original lyrics penned by the maestro in Bengali…

The Star-Studded Sky  by Rabindranath Tagore

( A translation/transcreation of Akash Bhora, Shurjo Tara, 1924)

The sky replete with sun and stars, the Earth brimming with life,
In the midst of this universe, I have found my abode.
Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. 

The infinite, eternal waves that create planetary tides 
Resonate through the blood coursing in my veins.

As I walk to the woods, I step on the grass. 
Heady perfumes of flowers startle me into a rhapsody.
Benefactions of joy anoint the universe.

I have listened, I have watched, I have poured my life into the Earth.
Through knowing, I have sought the unknown. 
Spellbound by the plenitude, songs awaken in my being. 

(Translated/transcreated by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal,2021)

Poetry connects with eternal human emotions over space and time with snippets from old and verses from new.

Poets continue to draw from nature to express and emote. In empathy with the forces that swirl around us are poems written by moderns, like Jared Carter.

 What is that calling on the wind
           that never seems a moment still?
 That moves in darkness like a hand
           of many fingers taken chill?

(Excerpted from Visitant by Jared Carter)

Click here to read Jared Carter’s Visitant and more poems.

Tagore wrote and painted. Here we have a poem about a painting done by the poet-artist herself, Vatsala Radhakeesoon.

An endless expanse swirls
over the tropical island.
At the foot of the Meditative Mountain,
birds, bees and butterflies wonder --
who is this mystic blue?

(Excerpted from Swirling Blues by Vatsala Radhakeesoon)

Click here to read Swirling Blues by Vatsala Radhakeesoon and gaze at the painting.

Separated by oceans and decades, were poets empathetic?

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you...

The smoke of my own breath,...

My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and 
dark-color'd sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.

(Excerpted from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman, 1881)

And despite exuberance of poets and their love of nature, came wars from across continents. Here are some of the responses of poets from all over the world to war and the pain it brings…

A soldier and a poet, Bijan Najdi (1941-1997) wrote in Persian, he captured the loss and the pain generated by war on children for us. This has been translated by Davood Jalili for Borderless

The world does not become bitter with the sword.

It does not become bitter with shooting, cries and fists.

The bitterness of the world

Is not the deer’s necks

And leopard’s tooth

And the death of a fish...

(Excerpted from Our Children by Bijan Najdi)

Click here to read Our Children by Bijan Najdi

Maybe children have a special place in poets’ hearts. Michael R Burch from across the Pacific writes of their longings too…

I, too, have a dream …

that one day Jews and Christians

will see me as I am:

a small child, lonely and afraid,

staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,

(Excerpted from I, too have a dream by Michael R Burch)

Click here to read Dreams of Children by Michael R Burch and more by him.

From Nepal, Manjul Miteri travelled to Japan to design a giant Buddha. While visiting the Hiroshima museum, he responded to the exhibits of the 1945 nuclear blast, a bombardment that ended not just the war, but many lives, many hopes and dreams… It heralded the passing of an era. Miteri’s poem was translated by Hem Biswakarma for us from Nepali.

Oh, Orimen!
Mouthful of your Tiffin
Snatched by the ‘Little Boy’*!
The Tiffin box, adorned with flowers,
Scattered and spoilt,
Blown out brutally.

(Excerpted from Oh Orimen! by Manjul Miteri)

Click here to read Majul Miteri’s Oh Orimen!

Continuing on the theme of war, what can war weapons not do? Karunakaran has written a seemingly small poem about warplanes in Malayalam that embraces the nuclear holocaust and more. The words are few but they say much… It has been translated by Aditya Shankar for us.

No warplane 
has ever flown like a bird,
has lost way like a bird,
has halted mid-flight reminiscing a bygone aroma.

(Excerpted from No Warplane Has Ever Flown Like A Bird by Karunakaran)

Click here to read No Warplane Has Ever Flown Like A Bird by Karunakaran.

From wars and acquisition of wealth, grew the greed for immortality.

Aditya Shankar writes rebelling against man’s greed, greed that also leads to war.

Through the tube,

the world poured into that room

with news of war and blood.

(Excerpted from Human Immortality Project  by Aditya Shankar)

Click here to read Human Immortality Project by Aditya Shankar.

Continuing the dialogue on discrepancies is a poem written by a visiting professor from Korea. Ihlwha Choi was in Santiniketan and just like Tagore found poetry in Krishnokoli, he found poetry in Nandini…

There was Nandini’s small shop along with fruits' stalls and the bike shop.

Cows passing by would thrust their heads suddenly

Into the shop thatched with bamboo stems....

...There lived a flower-like little girl selling chai near the old house of Poet R. Tagore.

(Excerpted from Nandini by Ihlwha Choi)

Click here to read Nandini by Ihlwha Choi

Poetry is about moods — happiness and sadness, laughter and tears.

Reflecting on multiple themes that mankind jubilates and weeps about is the poetry of John Grey, camping out in Australian outbacks, revelling in the stars and yet empathising with hunger… A few lines from his poem hunger.

Hunger can sing soft but compelling

in the voice of the one who last

provided you with three meals a day.

That’s years ago now.

Hunger has no memory

but it assumes that you do.

(Excerpted from Hunger by John Grey)

Click here to read Camping out, Hunger and more … by John Grey

And now we introduce some laughter. A story-poem by Rhys Hughes, about an alien who likes to be tickled…

“Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 It might seem quite fickle
 or even a sin
 to make this request,
 to ask such a thing,
 but I must confess
 that to ease my distress
 there’s nothing so fine
    as a tickle.
 So please tickle me 
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.” 

(Excerpted from The Tickle Imp by Rhys Hughes)

Click here to read The Tickle Imp by Rhys Hughes

And here is a poem by Tamoha Siddiqui, jubilating the borderless world of friendship.

Yesterday I heard the sound of colourful feet

to Indonesian beats, in the middle of Michigan:

white, black, brown, all were one

pitter-patter paces in a conference hall.

(Excerpted from Birth of an Ally by Tamoha Siddiqui)

Click here to read Tamoha Siddiqui’s Birth of an Ally

We share with you now from the most unusual poetry we have on our site, from a book called Corybantic Fulgours. If you want to know what it means, click here to check it out!

Concluding our oeuvre to jubilate a world without borders, here are lines from a poet who probably has influenced and united majority of writers across the world…another truly universal voice.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

Excerpted from TS Eliot's Four Quartets, Burnt Norton(1936)

The poetry of the historic greats are all woven by eternal threads that transcend man made boundaries. They see themselves almost as an extension of the Earth we live. Tagore, Whitman and Eliot write of the universe coursing through their veins. Shakespeare gives the ultimate statement when he brings in the play between imagination and nature to lift the mundane out of the ordinary. With inspiration from all these, may we move into a sphere, where poetry not only moves but also generates visions for a more wholistic and inclusive future.



Story Poem

The Tickle Imp

By Rhys Hughes

 The Tickle Imp
 I once explored a cave
 with a homemade
 flaming flambeau
 that sputtered and guttered
 while big bats fluttered
 and the waves of the sea
 lapped steadily
 on the shingle of the beach.
    I tingled
 as the shadows
 danced upon the walls
 and stalactites out of reach
 dangled like tusks
 in the interior dusk
 of that subterranean world.
 What was I seeking
 in that place?
 Why did I delve so deep?
 Was it simply a pleasure
 to look for treasure
 at the back of a gloomy maze,
 an iron chest full of gems
 hidden by a pirate bold
 one night in the olden days?
 The answer of course is yes!
 And there at last
 among scattered bones
 and the fossilised echoes
 of ancient groans
 I found what I was wishing for,
 a fantastic casket
 festooned with padlocks
 cunningly concealed behind sharp rocks.
 And whatever it held
 within its depths
 was mine to take and keep
 but first of course
 I had to break
 each rusty antique lock
 and disturb the sleep
 of any unkind ghost
 who might resent playing the part
 of my unwitting host
 in that bleak and slimy darkness.
 A hammer was my key!
 I knocked
    the locks off
 one by one with blows
 of savage glee
 and when that was done
 I had some fun
 throwing open the lid excitedly
 and feeling deep within.
 What did I feel,
 what did I see?
 Rubies, doubloons
 gleaming like moons,
 polished silver cutlery?
 Emeralds, sapphires,
 diamonds divine,
 opals smouldering with internal fires
 in colours that never fade?
 Or at the very least
 strings of pearls
 as long as the girls
 they were meant to adorn
 that would trail on the ground
 with a clicking sound
 louder than lawnmower blades?
 To my acute dismay
 on that momentous day
 there was nothing of that kind
 but just a strange little creature
 with disordered features
 and bulging eyes,
 a chin in the shape of a sickle
 and breath like ripe
   lime pickle
 who jumped out in surprise.
 He leapt onto my outstretched arm
 and clung there while I winced
 and though his claws
 spurted no gore
 the harm that was done
 left me rather sore
 and I roared in pain
 as I tried in vain
 to shake off the devilish thing
 but he refused to budge
 and when I paused
 he opened his jaws,
 undulated his tongue,
 and though he didn’t say much
 he spoke to me thus
 and it was quite enough:
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 It might seem quite fickle
 or even a sin
 to make this request,
 to ask such a thing,
 but I must confess
 that to ease my distress
 there’s nothing so fine
    as a tickle.
 So please tickle me 
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.” 
 The flaming flambeau
 was propped in a corner
 and I snatched it up
 to scorch his nose.
 Then he relaxed his grip
 and I was mighty quick
 to run away
 without delay
 and never deviating
 left or right
 I lurched into
 a stalagmite. Ouch!
 Yes, I stumbled and tumbled
 and rolled on the ground
     all the way
 to the mouth of the cave.
 I guessed the demon
 was pursuing me
 but I never expected
 him to reach the sea
 before I did, and how
 it happened I never learned
 but there he was
 to my great concern
 prancing in the waves
    that washed
 the mingled shingle and sand 
 in front of the cave
 and while he surfed to shore
 he clasped his hands
 and made this request
 in the style of a demand:
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 No doctor, nurse or
 could ever do half as much
 for me as a tickle
 under the chin.
 Why this should be
 I really can’t say
 but it’s all that I need
 to feel perfectly free
 and filled with strange glee
 to a tremendous degree
 like an emphatically happy
 ecstatic chappie!
 So please tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
 Shrieking I fled
 over jagged rocks
 and scuffed my shins
 almost down to the bone
 on pitted stones
 and the pincers of crabs
 snapped and snipped
 as they sidled up
 to the rude intruder
 who waded through
 their tidal pools.
 What a fool I had been
 to nurture that dream
 of wealth so easily acquired.
     All in vain!
 Rich and admired
 I never would be
 but dearly my life I hoped
    to retain
 and so I kept on running,
 bawling in pain,
 my leg still lame,
 as I tried to escape my fate.
 But my life would never
 be the same again.
 The dawn was breaking
 and my limbs were aching
 when I finally reached my home.
 I kept glancing
 nervously behind just in case
 I was being followed
 by that impish face
 but the coast was clear,
 the imp was nowhere near.
 I felt a surge of relief
 as I opened my door
 and passed in before
 I was fully aware of the possibility
 that he had again preceded me,
 which in fact was really the case.
 And on the mantelpiece
 in the living room,
 dangling his legs,
 there he was,
 waiting for me,
 and what did he say?
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
   the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 Alone for so long
 it can’t be wrong
 for my chin to crave a tickle.
 But if you refuse
 you stand to lose
 everything you hold so dear,
 your life and mind,
 I’m not unkind
 but that’s the truth,
 the facts are ruthless
 and uncouth.
    So tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
 I grabbed my wallet
 from the table
 and stuffed it in my pocket
 then out I dashed
 as fast as I was able,
 threw open the shed door
 to pull out my bicycle
 and it seemed that an icicle
 of fear was stabbing
 me in the rear
 as I mounted the machine
 and pedalled
 harder than ever before
 like a madman in a dream.
 Uphill all the way
 my journey took me
 to the mountains north of town
 and when at last
 I lay the bicycle down
 on the ground
 I was at the base of a peak
 so lofty and steep
 no one would ever think to seek
 a fugitive up there.
 Such an obscure sanctuary
 would surely suit me very nicely.
 I scaled the face
 of that glowering crag
 by my fingertips
 with painful slowness,
 compressed lips
 and no grace at all,
 but I finally managed
 after many long hours
 to conquer the
 forbidding tower of gloom.
 There was room
 at the top to accommodate
 one person only
 and the view
 would surely enable me to see
 far in all directions.
 If the imp was coming
 this way I would know
 and if he was really doing so
 I could deal him
 a crushing blow
 by rolling boulders on his head
 as he tried to follow
 me to the top.
 With bursting lungs
 and thudding heart
 I hauled myself to the summit
 of that granite block
 but to my shock
 the imp was already there
 with his charmless grin
 and his wispy hair
 and once again he had his say:
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
    the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 Ages ago I came to your world
 from a distant planet
 and asked to be tickled
 but nobody could be bothered
 with the simple request
 of an alien guest
 and now on this ledge
 I have solemnly pledged
 that if you decline
 I’ll give you no rest
 until the end of time.
 So tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.”
 My nightmare continued
 and when I look back
    to review
 the subsequent hunt
 of man by imp around the land
 I shudder and shiver,
 tremble and quiver,
 gasp and grunt,
 and my mind goes limp.
 Oh horrid times!
 I even caught a plane
 to distant Spain
 in the other hemisphere
 but after safely landing
 in Andalusia
 and disembarking
 with the flight engineer
 this course of action
 ultimately helped me not at all
 for at the point
 of luggage retrieval
 instead of my suitcase
 on the conveyor belt
 there trundled that being of evil
 who leapt into my arms
 insisting on a tickle.
 I grew old prematurely
 then finally sickened
    and died
 but this blessed escape
 was just an excuse
 for one more jape
 in the mischievous career
 of the incorrigible imp
 who managed to appear
 even now, yes!
 I was buried in a coffin
 and as I reclined
 to enjoy my time of rest
 for all eternity
 I heard a knocking on the lid
 and it opened
 with a creak and into my
 poor sarcophagus
 without making undue fuss
 creeped the dreadful thing
 with his tickle hungry chin
 and he shut the lid
   behind him,
 snuggled up close
 and hissed in my ear
 in the style of a ghoul
 from a cruel and ancient year:
 “Oh, tickle me under the chin,
    the chin,
 please tickle me
 under the chin.
 There’s little room
 for a man entombed
 to comply with my request
 especially in a time of such distress,
 but as my grandma always said
 when I was an egg:
 what individuals won’t do alive
 they might do dead.
 Even your residual awareness
 ought to understand
 it’s best to help me with my quest
 for I can be the kind of pest
 no one can withstand.
 So please tickle me
 under the chin,
    the chin.
 Tickle me under the chin.” 

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.




Poetry that Makes You Smile

By Rhys Hughes


 The Pedlar on the Roof
 On the roof
 across the way
 a man is perched
 like a hawk
 hawking his wares
 without any care
 for his safety.
 Where does he think
 his customers
 will come from?
 He is selling bicycles
 high up there
 and daring those
 below to try them out
 with a shout
 that is like the squeal
 of rusty brakes.
 “These bikes are real,
 not fakes!”
 He has won me over
 with his words
 and over I cross
 from my roof to his
 on the tightrope
 of the washing line.
 The loss of
 coins jangling
 in my pocket
 and notes folded
 in my wallet
 is no big deal
 when in exchange
 I receive
 a sturdy frame
 on two wheels
 that I can ride.
 The transaction is made
 and back along
 the perilous line
 I now promenade
 with the bicycle
 on my shoulder.
 If I was bolder I might
 trundle across
 like a circus acrobat
 but the risk is too great.
 Back on my roof
 I mount the saddle
 and set off on a journey
 entirely in tight
 circles: how divine!
 I ring my bell
 to express my delight
 to the man
 who sells these things.
 He is a pedlar on his roof.
 I am a pedaller on mine.
 Robotson Crusoe
 There was a robot named Crusoe
 who belonged to the crew of a cruise ship.
 He scrubbed down the decks
 and cleaned all the cabins
 until he was unfortunately shipwrecked.
 A dreadful storm bashed a hole
 in the hull and into the sea he was hurled
 but because he mostly had air
 in his head he floated quite well for several
 days until he washed up on an island.
 A totally deserted island.
 Robotson Crusoe was lonely and sad
 but decided to do the best that he could
 like a dutiful mechanical lad.
 He made some trousers and also a shirt
 from the biggest leaves on the trees
 and though for his dinner
 he usually ate bolts (rusty bolts)
 he made do with nuts (coconuts)
 and grew somewhat thinner,
 and though he liked hotels he lived in a hut.
 He was onto a winner but…
 One morning he found a footprint
 in the sand that belonged not to himself.
 Had someone else been stranded?
 He searched the island and found an android
 who called himself Diode Defoe.
 The stranger explained, “I fell from a plane
 while I was cleaning the wings.
 I fumbled and tumbled and plunged through
 the clouds and after landing I shouted
 aloud but no one came to my aid
 but I feel fine because I’m very well made.”
 Robotson Crusoe bade him welcome
 and they soon became best friends,
 two cybernetic maroons mentally
 in tune, for there was plenty of room
 on the island, that totally and utterly
 and not very subtly remote and pristine
 island. And boom! the waves crashed
 down on the beach and they surfed
 the breakers though it might seem rash
 for metal beings to sport in the brine,
 and in the evenings they drank coconut
 oil, which to robots is just like wine.
 The things they did were jolly good fun,
 they slid down the dunes and basked
 in the sun and played bongo drums on
 driftwood logs and blew mellow tunes
 on seashell flutes. How cute they looked
 in banana leaf suits but the point is moot.
 They went to the cinema arm in arm
 to watch the manatees play in the sea
 and that was their Saturday matinee.
 Beach cricket too and oh! what a view
 was had when they climbed the trees.
 “Let’s build a canoe,” suggested Crusoe
 on a day when the sea was all smooth,
 “and paddle away and pray that we may
 arrive on an inhabited shore.” But Diode
 Defoe shook his head and roared, “No!
 I beg you, dear Robo, to forget that idea.
 I love it here and wish to remain. Don’t
 you feel the same? I hope you will agree
 to stay. Finally free and very happy, our
 troubles all in the past, never again will
 we slave on behalf of human depravity.”
 Oh, his words rang true and old Crusoe
 thought so too, after a little pondering.
 “Then all our wandering is at an end
 and this is our home,” he said at last.
 They embraced, danced and pranced,
 as you might do too (if they were you)
 and to celebrate the momentous decision
 they thought it better to take a siesta.
 Robotson Crusoe and Diode Defoe are
 dozing now, swinging not fast but slow
 on a hammock with nowhere to go… 

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.



Humour Poetry

Sticky Myths

Rhys Hughes takes us through Greek mythology with his own brand of humour blending the past and the present

 When Bellerophon
      saw a unicorn
 upon his lawn
 he was somewhat
 “I have no wish
 to make a fuss,”
 is what he said, “but this
 is the day appointed
     for me to receive
       a visit from
 Pegasus instead.”
 Hydras are bad
 in Hyderabad
      or so
 Hercules has heard.
    Needless to say
 he therefore
       to go there
 on Pegasus Airlines
       but not before
 he goes to Goa
 because he badly
     needs a holiday.
 What a legendary chap!
 In order to earn
 money as well as learn
 something, while
 writing her thesis on Theseus,
 Ariadne works  
     as a guide
     to sightseers
     and gives them
 a Minotaur of the famous
 Sovereign of dolphins,
 king of the waves,
 the god of the sea
       makes bubbles
 without any trouble
 when he plays the flute
       as he bathes.
 And jazz in the oceanic
 jacuzzi is cosy
      and groovy
      but the melody
 is unfamiliar to you.
 Yet I can name
     Neptune in one.
 There’s a Zeus
 loose about this house,
 his thunderbolts
 will cook your goose,
 assuming that
     you are unlucky
 enough to have one.
 But even if you don’t,
 when you hear
    him stir,
    it’s better to duck!
 Simple arithmetic
 ought to be taught
     in the schools
 that heroes go to,
 so they will know,
 without any doubt,
 that one minus one
      equals nought.
 The stealing of
 the Golden Fleece
    celebrated with
     a premature feast
 in the near vicinity
 of the daring theft
 adds up only to trouble.
      Sail away first
 before slaking your thirst,
 sail far from the
      hostile nation.
 But enraptured by wine
 and more potent brews
 Jason plus crew
      (that fiery few)
 are captured and thrown
      into jail. 
 While serving time,
 forget the blue sea,
 remember instead
 all that you learned
 about subtraction
 and count down the years,
       one minus one
 equals nought, a free
 and that is the sum
      of this tale.
 Atlas, holding up the sky,
 looks and sees
 aeroplanes flying by
 around his head
 and through his legs,
 the passengers
 respectful to his
 massive thighs
 but oblivious
 of his giant sighs.
 Pan in the kitchen
 clattering pots
 and chopping boards.
 What’s the god
 of nature doing
 indoors? He’s frying
 so hard to be
 a domesticated chap,
 that’s what!
 A non-stick goatish
 do gooder with
 a skillet skill set.
 Prometheus on
     the promenade
 walking in
     the shade of trees
 no longer gives
     away anything
 to humanity
    for free, not even
 lemonade: those
     days are over.
 Now he hopes
     to make money
 and only offers
    his fire for hire.
 Socrates was such a tease
 in the market square.
    He doubted this
 and questioned that
     until some people
 had had enough.
 They felt he mocked
     their authority
     and in a cup
 of hemlock they turned
 a key, the skeleton
      key of his mortality.
 While the rock
 goes up his socks
 fall down. Poor
 When the rock
 rolls down his socks
 are quite forgot.
 Mighty but mild
 As the moon goes up
 his efforts are
 with moonlight
 flooded thus. Don’t
 make a fuss, old
 A cyclops is like
 a bicycle headlamp
 coming the other
 way. We meet them
 on country roads
 at night when we
 are cycling far away.
 “How do you do?”
 we always ask
 as we zoom past
 very fast, but they
 never deign to reply.
 They just hiss
 and wink darkness
 back to life and
 softened by gloom
 or the glow of
 the moon they
 become rather more
 beautiful. Now
 there’s a cyclops for
     sore eyes!
 Icarus upstairs
 on the omnibus.
      His wings
      were things
 that fell apart.
 Some people fly
 for business,
 others for sport:
 But since his
 accident Icarus finds
 that he prefers
      public transport.


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.



Humour Poetry

Christmas Poems

By Rhys Hughes

Krampus on Campus

Dear Admissions Tutor

I am rather too mature

a fellow

to present myself to you

in this manner

(it is true)

but I believe potentially

I will have a

bright future

if you allow me to enrol

at your university.


And let me now explain

the meaning

of my name. Krampus

the word derives

from ‘claw’

and I am wearied by my

seasonal chores

which unlike those of

Santa Claus

involves punishing bad

children instead

of rewarding the good.


I am hairy,

my long tongue lolls

and I have cloven hoofs.

I leap across

your roofs at night

giving children such an

awful fright!

and this has been my role

for years.

To cap it all my head

has horns.

My appearance generally

as you can see

is hardly prepossessing

but that’s

how I was born.


And now

I’ve had enough!

I want a

change of career,

no more

nastiness and no

more fear.

I long to improve myself.

Please permit

me to enrol and achieve

my goal,

a Krampus on campus

will be quite

a boon to your noble


My essays will all

be referenced properly

with the correct


I promise this!

Yes, you

can provide the solution

to my woes!


I write this letter

with my talons crossed for luck.

I have inspected

your prospectus

and the course I choose is


and Cultural Studies,

modules one and two”

and in advance I am thanking

you. Sincerely yours,

without a fuss, Krampus.


P.S. What don’t

you want for Christmas?

A Krampus

Once I was an Elf

Once I was an elf

(a real elf)

and I was proud

and strong.

I loosed my arrows

at dragons

and never thought

it wrong

to engage in battle

with my other foes,

the goblins

of the underworld.


How I miss

those ancient days

with their better ways

when mounted

on a flying horse,

a quiver on my back,

I soared above

the mountain peaks

that chewed the clouds

like demon fangs,

ready to attack!


Few back then

were quite so bold

and fewer still

so keen to seek

mighty new heroic deeds

to perform each week.

Caring not for

fame or wealth

while swooping

from the sky,

I defeated giant lizards,

evil wizards

and necromancers

for I was an elf

well versed in magic

with nothing tragic

about my circumstances.


But times changed

as they always do

and the age of wonders

passed away,

for even valour

and honour too

must eventually decay.

I fell on hard times

like all the elves

and sold my golden arrows,

cut short my hair,

lost my flying horse

and begged for work


cursing the worsening

of my situation

until at last I found a boss

willing to take me on.


The work is seasonal

and very hard

and now is the busiest

time of year.

I sometimes weep

as I recall how long ago

the good times were

when to be an elf

earned both respect and fear.

I have become

little more than a slave

in the modern world

and it is cold

so near the North Pole.


Yes, once I was an elf

(a real elf)

but now I am a mockery

of myself.

I slay dragons no longer

but every day

I just make toys

from a very long list

for girls and boys

who doubt I even exist.


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.