Ray Mather


                               ORDERING WORDS


Attention                      all
                        You                  words,
I’ve had enough of you
Doing what you w
There are going to be a few changes
Around here.
From now on
You will do what I want.
THAT               WORD!
You heard.
Stay put.
Or per              ulate
You are here to serve me.
You are not at your ease
To do as you please.
Whenever I attempt to be serious
You make a weak joke.
Always you have to poke
Don’t stir.
If ever I try to express
My feelings for someone
You come out all wrong
So sense make none they can of it,
Yet you’re so good once they’ve gone!
I’m in charge now
And you will say what I tell you to say.
No more cursing
Or sarcasm,
Just state my thoughts clearly
Speak what’s on my mind.
Got it?
        L              OUT!

First published in “Another Fourth Poetry Book”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster



Across the world
Two boys are crying,
Both wanting more
And tired of trying.
The first boy wants a mountain bike
And blames his mum for being mean;
Had enough of the daily hike,
He’s desperate to be part of the scene.
All day long
The wanting burns strong.
All the night
The wanting burns bright.
So little to ask,
Bikes are everywhere;
Oh, why is life so unfair?

The second boy wants something to eat
But is too weak to place the blame.
His mother weeps, helpless, dead-beat,
While his father hangs his head in shame.
All day long
The hunger burns strong.
All the night
The hunger burns bright.
So little to ask,
Food is everywhere;
Oh, why is life so unfair?

Across the world
Two boys are crying,
One’s full of life,
The other is dying.

First published in SCHOLASTIC COLLECTIONS: POETRY ed. Wes Magee  Scholastic Publications Ltd  1992

* click here to find out more about this poem FAQ


And so we talked of this and that,
Of oven grease and cooking fat
And who spilt what upon the mat
And left that stain.
A clock tick-tocked behind the scenes;
You sewed and pressed your old blue jeans;
I wanted to stop this but hadn’t the means
Through too much pain.
The route to your heart has been blurred;
I dare not utter an incorrect word;
The delicate balance must not be stirred;
Don’t make a scene.

We circled each other all last night
Like crabs preparing for a fight,
Our fatic language clipped, polite;
The cold between.



Can mean so much
Yet so very little
Can cause people to feel
Love or hate
Even when you mean them to feel
“When a cruel word has once left the lip
the swiftest horse cannot overtake it”
And harm is done
Where harm was not intended

The use of words
Is a difficult skill
We have to achieve
To communicate
To say the words we mean
And not just say
Could have brought you to me
They sent you away



Words come easily to me
Far too easily
Once in my mind they’re in my mouth
Then it’s too late
They’re free

Don’t say anything near me
I’ve this facility
Whether it hurts you or not,
I’ll make a quip
Hee! Hee!

Too late on bended knee
I’ll beg, “Please forgive me!”
But the damage is done
I’ve lost a friend
You see

I hope you can learn from me
At least to some degree
It’s better to filter your thoughts
Remove careless words



I’m no good at speaking
I don’t know when to stop
I know what I want to say
But can’t let the matter drop
And like some frenzied artist
Forever in a rush
Never satisfied the painting’s finished
I keep returning with my brush
My mind’s a messy canvass
Filled with arguments and wrangles
I can’t get the right perspective
Through covering all the angles
Unable to make a statement
Without yet another try
Seeking to be correct
To excuse and qualify
Until finally words are useless
Rendered harmless and bland
Or overladen with meaning
Impossible to understand




        black and


                                          the smoke

                                                                from the power station







                                     like a chinese dragon

                                                                          across the autumn sky

                                    teetering     d      u       k     n      y

                                                          r      n     e      l

                                                                                         on dirtywhite

                                                     cooling-tower feet

                      before col


                              over the wet slate roofs

                               of the redbrick estate



Auntie Mary had a canary
Until Auntie Ida came to stay
Auntie Ida had a bird-eating spider
Now the canary’s cage is  on ebay . . .
(But it’s no longer going cheap!)



Mary Martin may make marvellous muffins
But Betty Brown bakes better bread
Pastry professionals prefer Pam Porter’s pies
So Sandra Sutton’s sister said



Lick a lolly                                            Lick a lolly

sticky lolly                                            tricky lolly

    lick a                                                  from the

        l                                                            l

        o                                                           o

        l                                                            l

        l                                                            l

        i                                                            i

        p                                                           s

        o                                                           h

        p                                                           o




Lick a lolly                                            Lick a lolly

sticky lolly                                            quicky lolly

 till it makes                                           till there’s

        y                                                        just

        o                                                          a




        c                                                           s

        k                                                           t





First published in “Kersplosh, Kersplash, Kersplat!”  OUP UK 2001 ed. Ron Heapy



Scent of almond shampoo
A hopeless little cough
Crying lampposts
Spread  wet orange light
Across the sad street
Eyelashes painted black
Run dark rivulets
Down her cheek
Hair damper
Nose sniffling
Feet stamping with the cold
Avenue’s trees
Watching rain
Know the despair of a waiting heart
Leaf by leaf
Sound by sound
Will drip onto the empty road till late



There’s summat in t’air, th’ knows,
There’s summat in t’ grass.
Th’ can see in t’ farmer’s face, it shows,
Summat’s come t’ a pretty pass.
‘E comes among us wi’ ‘is dogs
And prods us wi’ ‘is stick,
Wearin’ them protective togs,
‘E treats us like we’re sick!
‘E shakes ’is ‘ead and clucks ‘is tongue
And mutters under ‘is breath
Summat about “Bloody bequerels!”
Bloody Sellafield!” and “Bloody death!”
I can’t see m’sen, what’s worritin’ ‘im,
There’s nowt that’s left its mark,
Though last night one of t’other sheep ‘ere
Began to glow in t’dark!



We seemed to have found the perfect spot                                                                
The sun was shining, the sand was hot                                                                        
We didn’t expect it would go so wrong                                                                       
A human invasion, a teeming throng

Windbreak walls and beach tent blooms split the landscape into a thousand rooms

A human invasion, a teeming throng                                                                            
We didn’t expect it would go so wrong                                                                       
The sun was shining, the sand was hot                                                                        
We seemed to have found the perfect spot



 The door flung open with an almighty bang                                                            
And into the class strode Beth and her gang                                                   
Giggling and gassing like a gaggle of geese;                                                               
A volley of sound destroying the peace.                                                                     
A few seconds later, enter the boys                                                                           
With an even greater volume of noise                                                                         
Into the room they stagger and stutter                                                                     
With a scraping of desks and mass of clutter                                                             
Finally, comes Wayne, a rock of a lad,                                                                       
Covered in crumbs from the crisps he’s just had                                                         
He jumps in his seat, he knows he is late                                                                    
And the poor little chair groans under his weight.                                                       
At last the teacher stands up to say,                                                                          
“We are doing poetry techniques today.”

*How many techniques can you spot in this poem?



Thank you for calling British Gas                                                                               
All of our operators are busy at the moment                                                               
Please hold the line while we try to connect you                                                  
Your call is in a queue

We hope you enjoy this music while you’re waiting

Your call is in a queue                                                                                               
All of our operators are busy at the moment                                                               
Please hold the line while we try to connect you                                                         
Thank you for calling British Gas



 Sarah, with her satchel, skipping home from school,                                                   
Chanting out her lessons, feeling very cool.                                                                
Yesterday in literacy, she learnt a new technique;                                                      
Now alliteration dominates her week.

Sarah with her satchel, starts another rhyme;                                                            
Loves how leading letters add a sense of time.                                                           
Working out the words and building up the beat,                                                        
Sarah skips along to the rhythm of the street.

Sarah, with her satchel and her new-found voice,                                                      
Croaks her new creations, overwhelmed by choice.                                                     
Double beats and triple beats come with every breath;                                               
After mastering the method she’s doing it to death!

Sarah, with her satchel, arrives at her front gate                                                       
But begins to notice the technique start to grate.                                                        
As lines of words get longer she finds them hard to say;                                            
Thinks thankfully tis time to terminate today!

 First published in “Read Me Out Aloud” MACMILLAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS (UK)2007 ed. Nick Toczek and Paul Cookson



See the monkeys in the zoo                                                                                        
Hear them screeching HOO-HOO-HOO                                                                      
In their cages lions snore                                                                                          
Dreaming of their hunting ROAR                                                                                
The reptile house is a “must-not-miss”                                                                          Where slimy snakes slither and HISS                                                                        
Elephants raise their trunks to bellow                                                                        
Trumpeting out a wild hello                                                                                        
The exotic aviary abounds with bird talk                                                                   
Here finches PEEP and parrots SQUAWK                                                                  
But the most curious creatures come in cars                                                               
To fill the air with their “OOOs” and “AAAAAAhs”


(Sound each syllable as in a football chant)

bacon,                                                                      croissants,                              
egg and beans,                                                         sliced baguette,                    
toast and butter –                                                     coffee and jam -
BREAKFAST! (English)                                              BREAKFAST! (Continental)

drip, drop                                                              two teams,                                    
drip, drop, drip,                                                     stadium,                                       
drip, drop, drip, drip -                                             two sets of fans
RAINFALL!                                                               FOOTBALL!

presents,                                                               olives,                                            roast turkey,                                                          anchovies,                             
tinsel and tree -                                                     tomato and cheese -
CHRISTMAS!                                                         PIZZA!

lions,                                                                     keyboard.
elephants,                                                              mouse and mat,                             
naughty monkeys –                                                   computer games -                 

THE ZOO!                                                                PC!

candles,                                                                  carrots,                                       
cake and cards,                                                        floppy ears,                          
party poppers –                                                       hutches and straw -
BIRTHDAY!                                                            RABBITS!

do this,                                                                   blue skies,                                    
don’t do that,                                                          ice-cream vans,                            
pocket money –                                                         seaside and sand -
PARENTS!                                                               SUMMER!

First published in “Read Me Out Aloud” MACMILLAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS (UK)2007 ed. Nick Toczek and Paul Cookson


Brittle as biscuits
Are the broken attempts
At expressing myself    
Combing each crumb
For a genius gem
Of emotional health
I know what I feel
And I mine the mood
But I can’t get it right
Because the mood of the mind
Is obscured by . . . words
Their meaning seems slight
Whatever I say
Sounds like part of a play
Clichéd, insincere
A failure to connect
A conversation wrecked . . .
Words, though cheap, can cost us dear



I wish to God
The words I spoke
Were words I meant to say
And not the usual drivel
I serve up every day
If I could just once impart
Those finer feelings
In my heart
You might not say
I play with truth
And mock all serious things

Burble on, burble on
Why do I?
I know I do go on
Like a raging river
And relentless time
Masters of erosion
Wearing away you patience
And offering you no recompense
For what I’ve done
L o n g  g o n e
The love
I thought I almost knew

Yet still I am trapped in the words
I didn’t intend to say
Words I thought too late about
Too soon you went away
If I had power to recall
Those words I never meant at all
You might have thought
I sort
Your love
And not light-hearted play



If only you knew
How much I really cared about you
And had taken less notice of the sea of sarcasm
That lapped around the words I meant
And ebbed away their essence
Leaving only pain and misunderstanding
A memory
Of language that offends
A big mouth
That drives away friends



Children rushing
Adults pushing
Engines chugging
Couples hugging
Toffee-apple licking
Candy Floss sticking
Diesel fumes
Haunted rooms
Dizzy heights
Flashing lights
Fingers locking
Kn-knees knocking
Long hair flying
Twisted mouths crying
Big Wheel turning
Stomachs churning
Waltzers spinning
Faces grinning
Hooters sounding
Music pounding
Dodgems crashing
Clenched teeth gnashing
Air-guns pinging
Train bells ringing
Helter-Skelter mats
Kiss-Me-Quick hats
Excited cries
Coconut shies
Balloons bobbing
Slot-Machines robbing
Hot dogs frying
Parents tiring
Spending money
Spending money
Pockets bare
That’s the fair!


April is not the cruellest month
Eliot got it wrong
Pregnant nature is bursting then
And birds return with song
The month that most deserves that name
Falls later in the year
When frost has felled the fragrant flowers
And Guy Fawkes feeds the flame
When leaves have left the last few trees
And hibernators begin their nap
When nights are drawing ever in
And shops are filled with Christmas pap
The blues contained within these clues
Will remember, remember,
Come chill to us in the mist and damp
In that nastiest of months,


I’m a troll, fol-de-rol
Anonymous and droll
I get satisfaction
From creating a reaction
I look for those in the mire
Light the blue touch-paper and retire
And I must confess
Enjoy causing distress
Ah, the power and control
How I love being a troll, fol-de-rol!



Friday Night
I wait
For the late bus
I wait
The bus is late
Across the road
A graffitied brick wall
Lit from above by a lamppost
A spotlight
A stage set
A late show
As I wait
I watch a cast of characters
Come and go
From the dim wings
Footsteps and voices
Announce their entrances
And exits
Two drunken young men
Stagger and support each other
Laugh at nothing
Fumble with cigarettes
And reluctant lighters
Under the spotlight
Enter a couple
She is ahead
Turns and starts to cry
He closes the gap
Tries to mollify
They hug
Continue in muffled snuffles
Reconciling their differences
Into the distance
A giggling gaggle of girls
Excited by their
Shared pleasure
While one answers her mobile phone
Casually lies to the caller
While her friends
Try to stifle their sniggers
And the night is filled
With their raucous laughter
Echoing off the surrounding walls
Fading as they disappear
And reappear down the lamplit street
The bus arrives
The curtain falls