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.



Humour Poetry

Thankestein & More…

By Rhys Hughes


The scientist who meddles with dark thoughts in the privacy of an apparatus-cluttered attic

is feeling ecstatic because of the sight that greets him on the automatic operating table in the centre of his gloomy room.

It is a monster constructed from parts that once belonged to people who now are dead

but he only knows for definite the name of the one who contributed the brawny left arm and that was Fred.


When read aloud the names of the others might resemble a chorus of doom

especially as he thinks he vaguely recognises the chap who contributed the major portion of the misshapen head

(a fellow who expired so recently that standards of decency prevent me from revealing exactly how, for what that’s worth)

so Victor the experimenter won’t mutter anything at all, thank goodness! and yes that’s the name he was given at birth.


He hopes to be famous for being the first man to create artificial life on Earth.

If he is successful with this monster he will go on to design himself a wife.

Not that he couldn’t find himself a girlfriend to marry if he really applied his mind.

But he prefers to make a refined spouse from scratch right at the top of the house and mend her as required.


All the body parts he stole came from the graves of very polite people

but he wasn’t aware of this fact when he exhumed the corpses with a spade in the moonlight shadow of a churchyard steeple.

And now the monster is ready and he will dare in his lair to pull the lever that sends electric current tearing through the flesh,

most of which is fresh but with a few gone off bits here and there.


The creature stirs, sits up and murmurs a gracious hello to his creator and notes that Victor appears to be famished

and so he invites him for tea and some buns with honey at a nice café later even though he has no money to pay for them.

His instinct is to be civil at all times even with a bolt through his neck that prevents him from courteously nodding

and thick cotton wadding in his mouth that stops him from speaking clearly when he is being impractically lavish.


Victor is baffled by this behaviour of the ghastly creature, whom he expected to act in a manner more horridly apt

but he simply shrugs his shoulders and accepts the situation as a hungry cat might allow a radish to be placed in its dish.

Not that the comparison is a good one, but the hour is late and I’m the one who happens to be writing this poem

so we’ll let it stand as it is and wait for Victor’s shrug to finally vanish.


Still hoping for an answer, the monster steps off the table onto the floor and offers his right hand for a friendly shake

and Victor doesn’t know the name of the original owner of that particular set of fingers but suspects it belonged to a girl.

Then the monster pats his creator on the back and thanks him again and again with a smile like an array of black pearls

and wishes him all the best and inquires after his health and praises his lustrous curls.


But Victor’s curls are nothing special for they are just unkempt locks that have been combed by his studious fingers.

The warm but slightly odd feeling generated by the monster’s compliment nevertheless continues to linger within him.

In the mind of Victor as he inspects his creation at a more judicious angle there rise doubts about what he is dealing with

and he feels alarmed at the distinct possibility that his monster might be congenitally friendly to all and sundry.


Monsters are supposed to be malign and frighten everybody in the nation

but this one is turning out to be the most genial entity in the entire history of biological experimentation.

Victor is bemused and considers the patchwork of good manners that stands unsteadily before him on mismatched feet

while the devoted monster sways but says thank you and remains sweet without an obvious motive or reason.


Then the scientist comes to a sudden decision and lunges for his adjustable spanner

and undoes the neck bolt with savage twists until the head falls off and rolls along the floor into a collision with the corner

but the dreadful head in motion still mouths a silent thank you and blows a majestic kiss, polite to the bitter end.

I don’t want a wife like that, Victor tells himself with a shiver, for she would offend my notion of domestic bliss.


I want a spirited woman who will keep me on my toes and not a docile little lady who will apologise when I pull her nose.

He considers his experiment a failure and plans his next move and soon in that attic room he is full of qualms and fears.

Should I take all the parts back to the graveyard, he asks himself, his chin upon his hand, or keep them as souvenirs

of the time I proved to myself that a rude and lewd nature is more desirable in a monster than a respectful gentle mood?


In the end he judges it easier to keep the parts, but the jars in which he seals the flesh turn out not to be quite airtight

and depression makes him indolent in the weeks that follow and he watches sadly as the bits slowly decay away.

He wasn’t exactly the greatest scientist of his day nor the happiest man in his town

but one thing can be said in his favour that should add considerably to his renown…


To the Victor, the spoils!


Would you like some toast?

(The waitress was a most gracious

host as she approached.)


You have bread! I said.


And she replied:

Yes, of course. A thoroughbred horse

is the best kind of bred.


Then in my silence

she continued:

I would deduce you have led a

sheltered life if you prefer any variety

other than that?


To which I responded:


A horse is not a loaf

all things being equal. I don’t wish

to make a fuss but equus

for breakfast is worse

even than a poached top hat.

What else do you have?


No top hats at all, she sighed.


How about a bowler soup?

I inquired with a drooping

mouth (it surely was

uncouth of me to look like

that… but no top hat!)


Nothing, she sighed. The

kitchen flooded and all the food was

spoiled. We are growing

pumpkins to pump out the water but

they will take many more

months to be ready.


At this point I felt quite unsteady.

Pumpkins won’t pump out water!

That’s absurd. Consider

the word more carefully. They

pump kin. Though I will

concede that they sometimes

shift kith too. But H2O?

No! Rue the day that

idea came your way. Why it’s

chemically outrageous,

the logic of the notion is

quite fallacious. Now please be

gracious enough to show

me the door.


There it is, she said

as she pointed with a long

itchy finger. It is ajar,

a jar of apricot



The door jambs were made

from fruit,

this is true, yet

there was still no proper toast

so the point is

moot. I stood up in my boots.


I swear that

I’ve had better service from

a ghost, one with a

pumpkin head,

I said as I departed. But the

waitress snarled

at my retreating

back and started to hurl abuse.


You ought to drain your spinal

fluid, oh pesky druid.

Warts for keys!

Birds and fleas!

Pumpkins for frumpkins such as you!

There is no such word

was my final retort as I slammed

the door behind me.

Air Guitar Contest, Wiki

Air Guitar Poem


Many people play

the air guitar. I have a friend

who plays an air lute

instead. It is cute that he feels

the need to be so

mediaeval. As for myself: I play

the air tambourine,

the air cymbals,

the air harmonium,

the air flugelhorn,

and pretty much the entire range

of possible musical

instruments, even those that

are tuned differently

from the scales I

know so well. And I even play

the air cow bells.


The only

instruments I avoid are the

air wind chimes and

the air Aeolian harp.


I find those rather tricky…


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.




Corybantic Fulgours

Rhys Hughes introduces us to the delights of doodling poetry in his new book with a name that I would not dare to pronounce, Corybantic Fulgours.

I ought to explain the title. It’s a title I have wanted to use for a book for a number of years. I often write down titles for later use and I usually have no firm idea what the books or stories or poems will be like until I write them. I just like the music of the words and that’s sufficient reason for me to write the titles down. ‘Corybantic’ means to dance wildly but I can’t recall where I first learned its meaning. A ‘fulgour’ is a light or glow and I’m sure I picked the word up from M.P. Shiel or one of those other writers of ‘weird fiction’ from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who loved to overindulge in archaic or abstruse words. I have always found it amusing that those writers tried so hard to be wilfully obscure. They were often very good writers but strove to make themselves less palatable to a popular audience rather than more popular. I admire this eccentricity. My favourite among them is Clark Ashton Smith, who never used one simple word when a dozen complex ones would serve.

So the title came first. Then I had to provide a rationale for using it. The book turned out to be a set of poems to accompany some drawings I had done. The drawings were all of monsters. I justified the title by declaring that these monsters were made from curdled light and that they danced a lot. Let’s say that I cheated in order to find an adequate reason for using the title, Corybantic Fulgours. I don’t mind admitting that this stratagem was highly contrived. Monsters themselves are highly contrived too, so it all fits together well. I have drawn monsters most of my life. But I must add a disclaimer here too. I don’t believe that I can really draw. What I actually do is doodle. I doodle a lot and the majority of my doodles turn out to be monsters. It is easier to draw monsters than anything else. The great thing about drawing monsters is that any mistakes will contribute to the monstrousness of the final image. Therefore those who can’t draw are better able to represent such entities monstrously.

In other words, I didn’t let the fact that I can’t draw well hold me back. I have long been interested in combinations of texts and imagery. Recently I obtained a volume of writings and drawings by the wonderful Mervyn Peake entitled Peake’s Progress that features work from the full span of his life, including projects he never completed. One section of the book is called ‘Moccus Poems’, written in 1929 or thereabouts, a set of drawings of monsters with simple short verses to accompany them. There are only six of them. Maybe there were more originally, but if so they have been lost. The drawings are excellent. Peake was an illustrator of genius. The poems are nonsensical and good fun. I decided that I wanted to attempt to create a book along the same lines. I know I can’t match Peake in image or verse, but I decided to amuse myself anyway.

I thought that if I doodled one monster every day, and wrote a poem for it, the book would be completed after two months or so. But I found that I was doodling more than one a day, sometimes four or five. I decided to stop only when I ran out of blank pages in the notebook I was using for my doodles. The result is that there are 54 monsters. One of the monsters, the ‘Unfeasible Space Giraffe’, covers three pages because he has such a long neck. He can stand on the surface of one planet and nibble the leaves of the trees that grow on another planet. But all the other monsters occupy one page to themselves. I wrote poems for each doodle as I went along. The monsters came first every time. The shape and size of each monster determined the length and structure of each poem, because I had to fill the remaining space with words and sometimes the remaining space wasn’t very much. I often curled and curved the poems around the bodies of the monsters and I allowed myself to enjoy certain typographical tricks, such as having text upside down or in the shape of a wave.

Poetry written for images that already exist is called ‘ekphrastic verse’. I didn’t know that until shortly before I began this project. The book took only two weeks before it was done. I am pleased with it. The hardest part was formatting the poems so that they followed the contours of the forms of the monsters, or at least appeared on the page in a manner that seems a little more interactive with the image than merely descriptive. Might I do a sequel one day or another similar book? I see no reason why not. What surprised me most was how purely enjoyable the creation of ‘Corybantic Fulgours’ was. Some books are headaches to write. This one was quite a delight. It turned out better than I had hoped.

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

20,000 Leagues under the Sea

By Rhys Hughes

I assumed that the leagues

were vertical

and that the Nautilus dived

precisely that number

down, and not

knowing what a league was

I remained without

concerns, but

then I happened to look up

the word in a

dictionary and my brow

wrinkled in a

frown as profound as the

boundless ocean.


A league is approximately

three miles long,

the distance that an average

man can walk in

one hour (he is walking

to see the flowers

of a distant garden?) Pardon

my confusion but

when I worked it out, it was

clearly impossible

for any sealed vessel to drop

20,000 leagues

through the waters of the sea

and put itself to

bed on the slimy abyssal plain.

The deepest trench

is only two and a quarter

leagues down.


The Nautilus would pass right

through the Earth

and emerge from the other side

and continue out

into space. The crew would see

only stars through

the porthole windows. No! This

simply couldn’t be

the case. In my haste I must have

misinformed myself.


I did the calculations again but to

my dismay they came

out the same way and I now began

to grow angry with

Jules Verne. What a cad! To play

with distance this

way would drive me mad. And so

I turned away from

his books. I learned to cook as an

alternative pursuit

and burned myself once or twice

on bubbling sauce

to be eaten with rice. But this has

nothing to do with

Captain Nemo. It wasn’t his fault.


The years swam past

like fish and I forgot my confusion

amid the tides and

surges of everyday life. It was a day

like any other when

the truth erupted inside me, boiling

my mind, bubbling

and bursting: a submerged volcano.


20,000 leagues under the sea, yes!

but horizontally! That

was the meaning. And I stopped to

stare dreaming at the

blue sky, another sea above me, the

clouds for ships and

people the fish in the depths, squids

and urchins, whales

of a time and quarrel reefs. Why did

it never occur to me

before? Jules Verne you are forgiven.

Am I forgiven too?


(And the walking man finally reaches

the sunken garden

where the anemones bloom)


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.