The Red Chesters



“Shall I collect the red chesters?”,
The caretaker said to me.
He’d said it so often I didn’t demur;
I grimaced and just let it be.

For him to take care of a school,
That was a daily trial.
He’d disappear for hours on end;
Complaints just met with denial.

‘Thruppence short of half a crown’,
Was how we described him then;
But that was being so unkind
To a minnow amongst men.

He shuffled around from place to place
Carrying brush and pan,
Picking up what others dropped,
Doing it because he can.

When needed to open a stockroom door
He went to find the key.
Two hours later he appeared
To set the prisoner free.

He stoked the boiler from time to time
To keep the heating on,
But never remembered to turn it off
When wintertime had gone.

He swept the playground with a broom
The way he’d always done.
You couldn’t see the difference
From when he had begun.

Cleaning out the long jump pit
Was just a task too far.
He couldn’t tell a pile of sand
From half a ton of tar.

And as for adding up I found,
He wasn’t the wisest of men.
When asked to count milk bottles up
He could never get past ten.

I asked him once how many chairs
He’d set out in the hall.
He told me, about ten rows, plus two,
He’d put against the wall.

And as for cleaning out latrines,
He didn’t find that easy.
He couldn’t wash a basin out
Without him feeling queasy.

So why, you ask, did I appoint him,
Choose him before another?
Sorry, but I do admit,
He was my dearest brother.




N.B.  ‘Red Chesters’ is the way some people mispronounce the word ‘Registers’, which are the daily attendance records maintained in each class of UK schools.




Sara Teasdale – ‘A Winter Night’

 [  No.70 of my favourite short poems  ]

Acquainted With The Night

Winter Night … Pen & Wash – WHB

A Winter Night

My windowpane is starred with frost,
The world is bitter cold tonight,
The moon is cruel, and the wind
Is like a two-edged sword to smite.

God pity all the homeless ones,
The beggars pacing to and fro.
God pity all the poor tonight
Who walk the lamp lit streets of snow.

My room is like a bit of June,
Warm and close-curtained fold on fold,
But somewhere, like a homeless child,
My heart is crying in the cold.


by Sara Teasdale


NOTES:  (adapted from Wikipedia) . . . 

Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933) was an American lyric poet.  She was born Sarah Trevor Teasdale in St. Louis, Missouti, and used the name Sara Teasdale Filsinger after her marriage in 1914.  . . .  From 1911 to 1914  Teasdale was courted by several men, including the poet Vachel Lindsay, who was truly in love with her but did not feel that he could provide enough money or stability to keep her satisfied.  (In 1914) she chose to marry Ernst Filsinger, a long-time admirer of her poetry  . . .  In 1918 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1917 poetry collection ‘Love Songs’  . . .  In 1933, she died by suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills.  Lindsay had died by suicide two years earlier.



A.E. Housman – ‘Bredon Hill’

[  No.69 of my favourite short poems  ]


‘On Bredon Hill’ . . .  Sketch – WHB: 1991

Bredon Hill is in Worcestershire, England, in the Vale of Evesham.  This poem of A.E. Housman’s, which he called ‘Bredon Hill’, is taken from his collection of poems, ‘A Shropshire Lad’ published in 1896.

Housman (1859-1936) was an English poet and scholar, whose verse exerted a strong influence on later poets.  The tone of this particular poem shows a preoccupation with loss and, as such, mirrors the tone of many of his poems.   It tells of lost love, contrasting powerfully the ‘happy noise’ of the church bells which brought joy and happy memories of youthful exuberence at the start of the poem, with the single tone of the funeral bell with which the poem ends.


Bredon Hill    (From “A Shropshire Lad”)

by A.E. Housman

In summertime on Bredon 
The bells they sound so clear; 
Round both the shires they ring them 
In steeples far and near, 
A happy noise to hear. 

Here of a Sunday morning 
My love and I would lie, 
And see the coloured counties, 
And hear the larks so high 
About us in the sky.

The bells would ring to call her 
In valleys miles away; 
“Come all to church, good people; 
Good people come and pray.” 
But here my love would stay. 

And I would turn and answer 
Among the springing thyme, 
“Oh, peal upon our wedding, 
And we will hear the chime, 
And come to church in time.”

But when the snows at Christmas 
On Bredon top were strown, 
My love rose up so early 
And stole out unbeknown 
And went to church alone.

They tolled the one bell only, 
Groom there was none to see, 
The mourners followed after, 
And so to church went she, 
And would not wait for me. 

The bells they sound on Bredon, 
And still the steeples hum, 
“Come all to church, good people,” 
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb; 
I hear you, I will come.



Wendy Cope: ‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’

[  No.68 of my favourite short poems  ]

The uncertainty which afflicts many poets concerning their right to call themselves such, is perhaps illustrated in this ‘Vimrod’ cartoon to be found on the website, and further expressed in Wendy Cope’s delightful short poem, below . . .

Vimrod-I am a Poet

The indecision which afflicts so many of us, leaves us, as in the last line of Wendy Cope’s poem, still insecure, unsure of ourselves and our abilities, and certainly ‘uncertain’.  But the need to press on remains, regardless of our doubts, and that is what tells me we must have something of the poet in us.



‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’  by  Wendy Cope


I am a poet.
I am very fond of bananas.

I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.

I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond.

A fond poet of ‘I am, I am’ –
Very bananas.

Fond of ‘Am I bananas?
Am I?’ – a very poet.

Bananas of a poet!
Am I fond? Am I very?

Poet bananas! I am.
I am fond of a ‘very’.

I am of very fond bananas.
Am I a poet?


Vimrod – as explained on Wikipedia:

Vimrod is a cartoon character created by Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar.  Vimrod is best known for its greetings cards, which sell worldwide in the millions, and books, which are published by Harper Collins and Andrews McMeel / Universal press Syndicate.


Let Life Happen: A Vagrant’s Charter


‘The Vagrant’ – Pen & Ink sketch: WHB 2017


Let Life Happen:
A Vagrant’s Charter

Give in
Let life happen
Don’t resist
or make a move towards it
Opt out
Let It approach you
and when it does
stand your ground
Don’t even think
of reacting
for if you do
then you will be committed
bound to your response
compelled to decision
confirmed in participation
in life
slave to
yes and no
and thus to become
fed to the mould
one of them
A shackled soul
… A human being



Rainer Maria Rilke – ‘The Swan’

(No.66 of my favourite short poems)


‘The Swan’ – WHB Pen & Wash – 2017

The Swan

This labouring of ours with all that remains undone, 
as if still bound to it, 
is like the lumbering gait of the swan. 

And then our dying—releasing ourselves 
from the very ground on which we stood— 
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself 

into the water. It gently receives him, 
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him, 
as wave follows wave, 
while he, now wholly serene and sure, 
with regal composure, 
allows himself to glide. 


… Translation from the German by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows


I have previously commented on one of Rilke’s poem ‘The Panther’ (q.v.).  In this poem, The Swan’, Rilke connects the awkward way the swan has of moving on land with its smooth, gliding motions as soon as it enters the water.  It is then, with forthright simile, he references the move for the swan, as for we human beings, from the uncertainties and incomplete nature of our lives to a calm acceptance of death.  This seems to me to present a positive view of what death can bring, with the release from earthly tensions into the calm and sure serenity of the after life.


Houses of God



Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Strength in stone,
Hope in height,
Testament in time
Prove its lasting might.


Selworthy, Somerset

To those with faith,
Those who believe,
Those who rejoice,
And those who grieve.

3St Justin Church-Cornwall

St Just’s Church, St. Just in Roseland, Cornwall

Here present hope
And future need,
Through prayer and praise
Help fears recede.

4Yorks-Lastingham-Blacksmiths Arms

Lastingham, North Yorkshire

Church and chapel
Hold their place
In loving hearts,
With God’s good grace.

5Salisbury Sunset

Cathedral, Chichester, West Sussex

Cathedral cloisters,
Calm retreat,
Where stress and pain
With courage meet.


St.Colman’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Cobh, Eire

Houses of God,
Built for prayer,
For those with faith,
Somehow, somewhere.




‘Mind Games’ … WHB – 1956



Whimsical and wild
Such are the games I play
Whilst mentally beguiled

Hidden within poetry
In discursive verse
My clandestine love affair
And terse

Give to me a reason
Why thus I can’t express
My willingness to capture
My need to seek excess

To open up
Revealing all
Whilst midst the subterfuge
My ego seeks adrenaline
A haven
A refuge

It’s all a nonsense
Words at play
Fending off my fears
Seeking to screen my inner hurt
reality kept at bay





A Secret Sonnet


‘Moonlight Tryst’ – WHB: Pen an ink, Dec.2017


They stressed my heart and bled it
Seeking to find you there,
But try as they could to discover
They never will find out where
You hide in lonely seclusion,
Your impregnable lonely lair.

For you are my cerebral lover,
Living a life in my brain;
We hold our trysts in the moonlight,
Let them look for ever in vain,
They never ever will find you,
For there is nought to explain.

Just a salve to pain and depression,
A caprice with a discreet confession.


JANUS 2018 – Two Sedoka

2 Katauta = 1 Sedoka

The Katauta is an unrhymed Japanese form consisting of 17 or 19 syllables. The poem is a three-lined poem with syllable counts of: 5/7/5 or 5/7/7.   . . .   A single katauta is considered incomplete, or a half-poem . . . a pair of katautas using the syllable count of 5,7,7 is called a sedoka.

The Sedoka, therefore, can be defined as – an unrhymed poem made up of two three-line katauta with the syllable count of: 5/7/7, 5/7/7.   A Sedoka, pair of katauta as a single poem, may address the same subject from differing perspectives. 

Source – adapted from:  Shadow Poetry

Continuing my occasional efforts at attempting different poetic forms I offer two Sedokas of my own composition, both based on the advent of a new year, with prospects for new beginnings . . . 

 JanusIn ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.  (Wikipedia)


JANUS 2018 – Two Sedoka

Yesterday has gone
Turn your face to the future
Let hope reign over regret

The future holds sway
Promises there are to keep
Let Love conquer dark despair


Look to the future
The past is history now
But remember its lessons

For they tell the truth
That what tomorrow will bring
Is what yesterday forgot