On a lighter note

A compilation of light verse for Covid times...

On a lighter note

A bet

Silence presses in as dark descends.
A single sentence crawls across the page,
edging its anxious way — then falters, ends,
encountering its nemesis in ‘cage’.
The Sonnet Muse is surly and withdrawn:
coax her I must because I need to write.
Anything will do. To win a bet I’ve sworn
a sonnet will appear before midnight.
The octave settled, all that’s left to do
is fix the volta — here it is — then find
a quatrain that will say a thing or two
to pass the time and ease a troubled mind.
And now the final couplet — nearly done it:
game over. Sonnet. And the bet? I’ve won it.


That it should come, that it should come to this.
It’s gone. There’s no more Marmite in the jar.
An end has come to my dark savoury bliss —
I am adrift among all things that are.
Exquisite substance, of all tastes divine,
melting into my toasted bagel every morn;
more complex, more uplifting far than wine,
your absence leaves me vacant and forlorn.
Come to me, Marmite Muse, at dead of night,
visit my soul with energising malt;
vanquish my cravings, set all wrongs to right
with one long dream of purest yeasty salt.
You, only you, can mitigate my pain
and help me face the empty world again

Negative capability

Suspended between this and that
I don’t know where I’ve put my hat.
I would do better as a cat,
who sits and drowses on a mat.

All day she makes a soothing purr,
wrapped up inside her warm soft fur.
My thoughts on hold, I um and er,
my own alethieometer.

Give me a puzzle, I don’t mind
what answer I am meant to find.
My lazy thoughts blow in the wind
and logic is a dreadful bind.

I stand and pause and hesitate
before I shut my own front gate.
I fudge and I prevaricate.
I wonder why I’m in this state…

Villanelle for Keith

It’s hard to rhyme lover with hoover
and try as I might I can’t cope.
Oh where is the rhyme-word for lover?

What a tiring and irksome manoeuvre –
so irksome I’ve given up hope.
It’s hard to rhyme lover with hoover.

Believe me, I’ve searched the world over
and now I’m beginning to mope.
Oh where is the rhyme-word for lover?

I cannot use ‘brother’ or ‘other’ –
the half-rhyme’s a tired old trope.
It’s hard to rhyme lover with hoover.

And what about ‘plover’ or ‘mover’?
D’you think that I’m dull, or a dope?
Oh where is the rhyme-word for lover?

I am lost, but I’m still an old groover
though I ponder, I grapple, I grope.
It’s WRONG to rhyme lover with hoover.
So where is the rhyme-word for lover?

The cat

Why do you sleep through it all?
Do you think that you’re safe like that,
a soft ball of fur on the mat?

Why do you stretch and yawn,
as if all the news is old
and your only fear is the cold?

Is winter your only foe?
Will the virus let you be?
Do you still have immunity?

What makes you impervious?
Is the sun your perpetual friend?
Will this sleeping through hell never end?

Oh, answer my questions, please.
Just open your eyes and blink.
A nod is as good as a wink.


Ranged here in rows before me, full in view —
old lenses in dull frames I used to wear,
all glinting with the sudden spectral hue
of yesterdays reduced to one blank stare.
See how the years unravel in their gaze,
each passing decade shrinking, shrinking,
each lens mute witness to the waning phase,
its varifocal glass cold and unblinking.
How many sonnets have these specs now read,
penned first by others, later by myself?
I cannot number them: the years long dead
are stashed away in books on my sad shelf.
Specs ranged in rows are silent, like my rhymes –
spectating spectacles in Covid times.

The glabberchops

For hins the glusty glabberchops
Had grought the blusty raths,
Glasting their glops with glabberspew
And their splens with slisty saths.

Besprent the splens, bedrathed the glops,
The shlasters slupped the blin —
But freer had the blusty raths beglored,
Now the wustwin wrestered in?

The glabberchops had glisted now,
The raths were all awabe
Down sprent the slusty shlasterstocks
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Prufrock among the mermaids

They swim into his dreaming thoughts
when he has just awoken.
He meets them on the marbled rocks,
his dream-world torn and broken.

He’s made a meal, he’s poured some wine,
he’s re-arranged the seating.
He wants the mermaids for his own
and celebrates the meeting.

He needs to hear them sing to him,
he longs to hear them humming –
but in his world their tongues are tied:
he hasn’t seen this coming.

Three times he’s met them on the rocks
just after he’s awoken.
Three times he’s made a meal for them.
They’ve never sung or spoken.

At last he’s seen that they are shy
and may not wish to know him.
He’s made a path back to the sea
in case they should outgrow him.

But when the mermaids swim away,
these meetings truly over,
he hides behind the marbled rocks
that edge the cliffs of Dover.

And sometimes when the moon is full
he hears a soulful thrumming.
The mermaids lie upon the beach,
and each to each they're humming.

So now he haunts the silver sand,
his dry skin flaked and browning.
With trousers rolled, he’s growing old.
He wakes – and thinks he’s drowning.