Some poems – for children

What the Magician Whispered

Give me hooray! bravo! and encore!
and I’ll give you –

one wish, every day,
always ‘yes’, never ‘no’,
‘open’ on your every door.

Give me boo! hiss! and lame!
and I’ll give you –

full bladder / no loo,
a cobra’s fatal kiss,
last place in every game.

Give me –

two white rabbits from one black cat,
an ace of hearts from a jack of spades,
doves released from a locked-tight cage,

and I’ll give you –

my hat, my cape, the stage.


The Cup

There’s a cup in the cupboard
that nobody loves.
It’s brown and it’s chipped
and it’s not really big enough
for a decent cup of anything,

but whenever someone offers
a hot drink of this or that, I say,
‘I’ll take the brown cup,’ and so
they all think it’s my favourite cup.
But really, I just feel bad
about the things that nobody loves.


When I Was Cross-Eyed

I thought I saw a loaded fist
itching for a riot.
But no, it was a tenderness
resting on a quiet.

I thought I saw a hurricane
bullying a breeze.
Turns out it was an effortless
relaxing on an ease.

I thought I saw a naked flame
flinching from a blow.
Not so, it was a free-for-all
following the flow.

I thought I saw ten hard-as-nails
tightening their grip.
Turns out it was a sweetness
savouring a sip.

I thought I saw a cruel king
menacing the masses.
But no, it was my eye doctor
prescribing me peace glasses.


Cookin’ Up a Universe

Particle soup!
Particle soup!
Start with a big pot
of particle soup –

add in some photons, a few cosmic strings
and out pops a jungle and six chicken wings.

Mix in some quarks and a mini black hole
which may create rain clouds or loud rock ‘n’ roll.

Chuck in some bosons: one X and a Higgs.
Result? Iron ore and a kilo of figs.

Stir in a lepton, a handful of WIMPs,
then watch as the room fills with glassware and shrimps.

Three light neutrinos, a muon or two
will often as not yield a tree kangaroo.

Gravitons, gluons and monopoles (four)
will either make peas or a long civil war.

Choose your ingredients, roll out the dice
and pray that the world you’ve just made will taste nice.

Particle soup!
Particle soup!
Boil up a big pot
of particle soup.


No Unauthorised Vehicles
(poem for a sign on a gate)

Then authorise my vehicle.
So rubber-stamp my car.

I’m done with steering oh-so-near,
I long to motor far.

But every time I venture out,
I’m halted by a sign –

Keep Out! Be Gone! Just Go Away!
This Road is Mine, All Mine! 

Dear sirs, it’s you who’ve made this
the road where I must go,

with all your tempting notices –
the ones that tell me, NO.


Dancing with Life

I beckoned to the floor
missed buses and lost races.
We body-popped till sore.

I held out my hand
to every failed exam.
We lindy-hopped. We can-canned.

I slipped my arm around the waist
of Chicken! Loser! Nerd!
We skip-jived at a pace.

I chose the longest, dullest week
and pressed it to my chest
as we cha-cha’d cheek to cheek.

I tipped and doffed my hat
to a hundred horrid haircuts.
We mambo’d, tango’d, tapped.

Feeling bold, I turned to face
my darkest, rawest faults.
I took them in my arms, we bowed
and broke into a waltz.


Thanks to the editors of these publications where some of the above poems first appeared –

Michaela Morgan (ed). Wonderland: Alice in Poetry. Macmillan, 2016 (‘When I Was Cross-Eyed’)
The Caterpillar magazine, 2016 (‘The Cup’),

Roger Stevens (Ed). Poetry Zone. Troika, 2018 (‘Cookin’ Up a Universe’)
Liz Brownlee’s, 2017 (‘No Unauthorised Vehicles’)
Allie Esiri (ed). A Poem for Every Day of the Year. Macmillan, 2017 (‘Dancing with Life’)