Outlandish Tales of Folklore

Outlandish Tales of Folklore is a series of three sonnets which uses traditional folktales and mythology as its subject.

Cooking with Elves

Around the campfire they sit and
Squabble, the Dark Elves, the Svartálfar,
Who capture babies in the night,
While slumbering peacefully in their beds
Tangling their hair in elflocks
They squeal with horrid delight,
Throw them in… Throw them in…
No beauty here, just the sharp pain of fright.

So before you sprinkle Buckthorn in a circle
And dance wildly under the full moon,
Think wisely if you cry before he flees
Dark Elf! Halt and grant my boon !
And wish not for help or harm
Or harm will harm you soon.

The Curse of Baba Jaga

Where are the servants? Don’t ask or
She’ll kill you, Baba Jaga, of the forest
Who kidnaps babies in the night.
The cat… The dog… The tree… The gate…
Her invisible servants, silent like the riders,
I am Day, says one, all dressed in white,
Who comes in red? I am the Sun,
Then dressed in black, I am the Night.

She’s coming now, look out, look out,
Sweeping their hoof-tracks with her broom.
The wailing wind begins to blow
While trees around her moan and groan
And shrieking spirits follow in her wake,
Leading you flailing to your doom.

Hansel and Gretel

Deep in the forest, two children cry alone,
Finding a friend; a witch, a fiendish hag
Who snatches babies in the night,
Fattens them… Cooks them… Eats them…
Oh Hansel, Gretel, be afraid and run,
Hide in the bushes, stay out of sight.
Too thin, too thin, I like them fat,
The witch-hag cries with sheer delight.

Gretel, now her servant, fetches sweets
To force feed Hansel, trapped alone.
She’s coming now, the witch, she squeals
Be he fat or lean, I’ll eat him soon
But it’s too late, in the oven she goes
The children flee and the tale is done.

Lost and found

Lost and found is a villanelle, a rather old-fashioned poetic form which is 19 lines long and consists of five tercets and a closing quatrain. It depends on the repeated use of two lines. These two lines appear four times each and again at the very end. The Villanelle originated in France and entered the English language in the 1800s.

Lost and found

I realise now what I have lost
Is not as much as I have found,
Yet still I have to count the cost
Of losing what I valued most.
As life and death get swapped around
I ask myself, ‘what have I lost?’
Like dreams on stormy oceans tossed,
Then flung upon the stony ground,
Yet still I have to count the cost
Which no-one can regain once lost.
My voice can speak, but make no sound
When realising what I have lost.
Then winter comes with snow and frost
And hardens hearts on stony ground,
Yet still I have to count the cost
Of love when I have loved the most
And lost the love that I have found.
I realise now what I have lost
But still I have to count the cost


Sunday is a very short poem I wrote years ago. I have also included a couple of Haikus. A Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of three lines in the pattern 5, 7, 5 morae (or on). A morae is a sound unit, which characterizes Japanese poetry, unlike English poetry which is characterized by meter.


You left on Sunday
Now the sun is gone
From Sunday
And it’s just another day


Cat-like the night creeps
Silently, winter clothed
In fur, she sleeps

In my dreams I fly
Birds and clouds pass by the sun
I want to be them



You left to join the circus
As it travelled through our town,
You said you were a lion-tamer
Not a lady’s clown.
I didn’t mean to hurt you,
I was trying to play it cool.
I didn’t mean to be unkind
Or treat you like a fool.

The flat was cold and empty
So I let it to a man
Who was a part-time actor
And drove an ice-cream van.
His wife had left to join the air force
In a neighbouring town;
She said she was a flyer
But she thought he’d let her down.

I left to go to London
To get a job outside.
I couldn’t stand to watch the mirror
Watching while I cried.

It’s hard to iron

It’s hard to iron

It’s hard to iron
Without a hand
No not a hand
As in to help,
But hand as in
The five-fingered extension
Of one’s arm

It’s hard to climb
Without a foot
No not the measurement
Of length,
But foot as in
The five-toed extension
Of one’s leg

It’s hard to think
Without a head
No not ahead
As in gaining ground,
But head as in
The single extension
Of one’s body

But harder still
To live and die
No not to live and die as such,
But live and die as in survive
This world, this earth, this time

Childhood dreaming

Childhood dreaming

I wished I was a Persian cat
With long grey fur and amber eyes
I wished I was a greyhound dog
Fast and sleek with coat that shines
I wished I was a jungle lion
Smart and fierce and roaming wild
I could have been all three of these
If I had been a different child

But I was timid as a mouse
Who never dared to venture out
I lived my life inside the house
Fearing gentle words of doubt
It’s too late now when childhood’s past
The mouse is me, the die is cast

Poetically retentive

This is not really my usual sort of poetry, just a bit of fun. I am not good at free verse.

Poetically retentive

With mathematical precision I count every beat
From beginning to end of each line
They must be concise and perfect and true
And every so often must rhyme

No freedom of verse or lyrical waxing
No skipping a meter or two
Iambic, trochaic or even dactylic
I just can’t get away from this view

So give me the sound of a heroic couplet
At the end of a sonnet’s quatrain
And leave out the free in the dreaded ‘free verse’
From such abandon I choose to abstain

This looseness, this freedom, this modern approach
Would make Shakespeare quite turn in his grave
Sestinas and pantoums or even a haiku
Is the poetic challenge I crave

But sometimes I wish I could open the window
And let all the verses run free
Oh, the burden of being so precise all the time
Is boring the hell out of me!


My first poetic blog. Enjoy….. or not.


The hat was pink and floppy with a large, bright pin.
Her hair flowing, flowing forever
Over her loose Indian smock

He was stiff like his hat, 
A stiff black hat with a black band, 
A funeral hat for every day

He hated her hat, 
Her pink floppy hat,
He loved her without the hat,
The pink floppy hat

She wished he would take off the stiff black hat.
Did he wear it in bed? In the bath?
She could love him without the hat, 
The stiff black hat

She went to the river,
Flowing, flowing forever, 
And threw in the hat,
The pink floppy hat

He went to the cliffs,
The high black cliffs and jumped…