Bottom of the Barrel

organ grinder
The Organ Grinder by Vasily Perov


Bottom of the Barrel

I saw an organ grinder and his capuchin the other day –
He made an awful racket, and the monkey didn’t want to play,
And no surprise !, the poor bedraggled creature looked a broken thing,
Half-starved and half-exhausted, on a short and fraying string.
The organist was little better – no musician with a skill –
He simply turned the handle to produce the loud and flat and shrill.

I ought to add, this wasn’t in a smart and swanky part of town,
Because the rich have constables to move them on and shut them down.
Instead, they haunt the humble in the poorest, foulest thoroughfare,
In begging half a penny from the folks who haven’t one to spare.
But still I stopped, and watched that doleful monkey, as his master hawked,
And wondered what he might have dreamt of, if he only could have talked…

“I’d rather be a monkey than an organ grinder, any day –
We monkeys gets to leap and dance, and gen’rally to have our way,
And sport a hand-made uniform, and all the grapes that we can eat,
And always plays to cheering crowds from Berkeley Square to Gower Street.
And yet the world is quick to view me as a lackey or buffoon –
But grinders only get to grind, and grind, and grind all afternoon.”

I saw an organ grinder and his capuchin the other day –
And shared a knowing look, we three, of how they’d soon be swept away.




africa animal british close up
Photo by Mike on



I’m far too much busy just watching these wonderful creatures
To care for your grammar.
They’re so like the ferrets and martens in habit and features –
They drown out your clamour.
They aren’t, though, that closely related (they’re closer to panthers),
They just look the same –
For evolution converges on similar answers,
And so does their name.



A Litter of Angels

up pig


A Litter of Angels

And if I ask, she might commence
To stroll with me upon the croft,
And though I know she’s happy hence
To never cross our friendship’s fence,
I pray she’ll learn how much I wish I’d doffed
My shy concern, and share those eyes so soft –
And with this burn, I call on Providence
That we may chance discern
to glimpse that fabled herd aloft.

For surely must her ’mazement form
As pigs come gliding from the west,
And may she gape in wonder warm
As grunting gammons flock and swarm.
Atop the trees, the sows are in the nest.
Upon the breeze, the shoats are cherubs blest –
Such hogs she sees !  These razorbacks in storm
Shall rend her heart’s decrees
and forge sublime within her breast.

And ev’ry time their trotters pound
For ham-thrust launch, so ardour springs.
And ev’ry volant-piglet’s sound
Of flapping brings such sighs profound.
These airborne swine, these porkers shot from slings,
These boars divine, these swooping, free-range kings,
Such hope they mine when soaring heaven-bound –
These aeronauts porcine
shall speed her love on bacon wings.



Swan Song

detail from Move Out! by Morten Storstein


Swan Song

Christmas morning, along the canal,
As we strolled passed the swans who had lost all their grey,
Between the old works and the back of the mall,
We watched as the swans chased their cygnets away.

The cob and the pen were a pair of old thugs,
On Christmas morning along the canal –
They drove out their rivals for duckweed and slugs,
And sent their kin flying off over the mall,

Frozen or starving or prey to a fox –
Their parents don’t care, but then that’s nature’s way.
We watched as the swans taught their children hard knocks,
Along the canal on a cold Christmas Day.


I would just point out that ‘canal’ and ‘mall’ do rhyme, despite the current trend to ape the Americans.



Naming the Serpents

Lilith by John Collier


Naming the Serpents

Adam named the adder
And the grass snake and the asp,
The whip, the smooth and ladder,
And the rattle and the rasp.

He named them, ev’ry one entire,
That slinked across the land,
From the cobra in the briar,
To the boa in the sand.

But one had never caught his eyes:
The one within the apple tree –
The one that we immortalise
In canvas, glass and tapestry !

’Twas Eve who named the python
Once she’d tasted his delight,
She bet her very life on
How he’d hug but wouldn’t bite.




farm cat



My life was good on Manor Farm –
Just catching rats and lapping milk,
And sleeping warm and safe from harm –
I had no qualms with Jones’s ilk.
Yet revolution saw it scrapped –
Ah well, a cat will soon adapt.

I let them give their speeches,
And I let them hold their votes,
As they banned all booze and breeches,
And they argued beets or oats.
I snoozed between the awed and rapt,
Because a cat can soon adapt.

By hoof and feather, cart and plough,
We each must labour, none must shirk –
But rodents are our comrades now,
So I am out of work.
My talents must remain untapped –
But hey, a cat shall soon adapt.

Yet I smell blood, and I smell fear,
Among the cowed who used to crow.
They ought to leave, but still they’re here –
For where else can these rebels go ?
They’ve made their home, and now they’re trapped.
Farewell – a cat must soon adapt.



The Barons of the Jungle

black cat walking on road
Photo by David Bartus on


The Barons of the Jungle

When humans send themselves extinct, then who will take their place ?
The chimpanzees ?  Or have they missed their chance at master-race ?
Parrots, crows, or even pigeons ?  But they lack the hands to build –
Dolphins hunter-gather while the oyster-beds remain untilled,
Yet octopuses have the arms, and boy, are those arms skilled !
But life for them is short and done – they’ll never make it number one.

But cats have cunning, cunning paws,
And curiosity to dare –
And even if the reaper calls,
Then cats have lives to spare.
So some are fat and some are cool,
And all, at night, are grey –
They walk this world, yet never rule,
And leave the mice to play.

Now mice and rats are shrewd, for sure, but hygiene lets them down:
Too many fleas, too many plagues, to ever wear the crown.
An elephant remembers, but they sometimes are mistaken,
While bears will sleep their lives away and never reawaken,
And pigs are pretty clever, though they still end up as bacon,
And bees will sting to save their hives, yet never learn it costs their lives.

But cats can look upon a king –
So could they wear the boots and chain ?
Alas, though ev’ry bell should ring,
They’ll never turn again.
It takes a team to build a throne,
Yet cats won’t pull together –
The cat who always walks alone
Must walk alone forever.