Ray Mather



Hey, Will! Stand still!
Why don’t you do as you’re told?
Let me tuck your shirt in,
You’ll catch your death of cold.
Leave the sand in the sandpit
And don’t you bury the cat!
Put the gardening-shears away –
Stay where I can see you
And don’t climb any trees.
Get up off the garden;
Look at the state of those knees!
What have you got in your mouth?
Open it, let me see.
Where did you get that chewing-gum?
Give it to me!
Where is your new bike?
What? You left it in the street?
Go and fetch it at once young man
Or that’s your very last treat!
Hmm, I should think you are sorry,
You’re lucky it was still there.
OK, yes, you can clean it,
But just you take good care.
No, you don’t need the hose-pipe,
I said no – PUT IT DOWN!
That wasn’t very funny,
This is not a smile, it’s a frown.
Right, I’m turning the water off!
Joke’s over. I’ve had my fill.
William, DON’T do it again!
Will he?
He will!

First published in “YOU JUST CAN’T WIN”  BLACKIE (UK) ed. Brian Moses 1991



No-one’s kissed her,
My big sister;
It’s enough to make her weep.
Dreams of romance,
Thinks she’s no chance,
So she cries herself to sleep.
She’s tried make-up;
There’s no take up,
No-one ever looks her way.
Put her passion
Into fashion,
But the boys still stay away.
So mum kissed her,
My big sister,
Said, “you’ll have to learn to wait.
You’ll go steady
When you’re ready,
After all you’re only eight!”

First published in “I’M TELLING ON YOU” (MACMILLAN) ed. Brian Moses 1998


BABYTALK (For  My Daughter, Rose)

Who’s a little beauty, then?
Cootchie! Cootchie! Coo!
Doesn’t she hold her head up well?
And doesn’t she look like you?
Aaah, look at her little fingers!
Aren’t they incredibly small?
I remember when our John was born,
It doesn’t seem long at all.
Is she feeding well, then?
Are you bottle or breast?
You know what all the experts say –
Mother’s milk is best!
Bless her, look she’s smiling!
I haven’t lost the knack . . .
Oops . . . she’s filled her nappy,
Erm, would you like her back?



Newborn baby steaming;
Brought suddenly to life,
He enters screaming.

Toddler, starts to walk,
Encouraged by all to speak
But told when to talk

Schoolboy grows a skin
The lesson learnt through teasing
Lock your feelings in
Teenager in love,
Dreaming in bed till lunchtime,
Sees her every move.
Worker at the window,
Watching sparrows play the wind,
Counts the hours to go.
New dad understands,
The value of his parents,
Baby in his hands.
Old man in his chair,
Looking at past photographs,
Sees his youth stored there.



Three sisters
Leaning on a brother
Supported a mother,
Fitfully falling downwards to death,
Dragging their lives
After her own.
There can be no tears for grandma.
Every morning
She was started on their batteries -
The batteries eventually ran down.
My mother,
Hollow-eyed, white-faced, wrinkled,
Became a wraith.
When grandma died,
Brother and sisters
Collapsed in a pile
Like some grotesque circus act
Suddenly overbalancing.
Grandma was eighty-three,
My mother looked older.



During the serious work of this Monday morning
I will think of you last night
And smile



Take a large amount of trust
Blend in a good measure of honesty
Crack a joke or two to taste
Sift out the truth from a mixed bag of gossip and rumour
Mix well, but do not stir
Sweeten with compliments
Thoroughly warm with goodwill
But do not  boil
If it does start to simmer
Allow to cool
Give each a generous portion
Serve with smiles



Wallis with his Walkman
Truckin’ down the street,
Gives no respect
To the people he meet.
Wearin’ his Ray-Bans,
Shuttin’ out the light;
Struttin’ like a bantam,
A real cool sight.
Wallis with his Walkman
Step across the road,
Ain’t got no time
For the Highway Code.
Wearin’ his earphones,
Pluggin’ in the sound,
Can’t hear no traffic
A-bustlin’ around.

Wallis with his Walkman
Didn’t hear no bus,
Suffered some abrasions
And a bit concuss.
Lyin’ in Casualty
With the latest chart
But this time the beat
Is a-comin’ from his heart.

Wallis without his Walkman
Finally discharged
A bandage on his leg
And his head enlarged.
Limpin’ down the pavement,
Now I think he know,
Havin’ learnt his lesson
Him watchin’ where he go!
First published in “HOT HEADS, WARM HEARTS, COLD STREETS” ed. John Foster, STANLEY THORNES (UK) 1996



Who’s there?
Just an eddy of air
That tickles the trees
Only the scuff of a cat
As it noses the leaves.
Who’s there?
Just a raising of hair
At the back of the neck.
Only a tug on a nerve
That makes the knees knock.

Who’s there?
Just the thrill of a stare
Unseen in the dark.
Only the following eyes
That in black corners lurk.

Who’s there?
Just the thought that you share
A deserted lane.
Only the fall of footsteps
That stop when you turn.
Who’s there?
Just the creak of a stair
As the storm shakes the house.
Only the tap of a shutter
The wind has worked loose.
Who’s there?
Just a wing and a prayer
That you’ll pass the night safe.
Only the tingle of terror
From imagination run rife.

First published in “NEVER SAY BOO TO A GHOST” OUP (UK) 1990 ed. John Foster



Boys will be boys, buy him a gun;
No harm playing soldiers, it’s just childish fun.
Splatter your enemy, make sure he dies!
Revel in killing with bloodcurdling cries!
Don’t look so worried it’s all make-believe;
The end of the game wins them reprieve.
It won’t make them worse, I’m sure you’re aware,
The aggression in boys is already there.
Please don’t be silly, there’s no need to fret,
Playing at soldiers is a natural outlet.
Don’t stand there looking so conscience-wracked;
Live in the real world . . . WAR is a fact.

But inside my head screams a voice loud and shrill:
“Play is practice for real life; they are learning to kill!”
And when weapons become toys and war becomes play
What kind of message is that bound to relay?
That force is the answer to all acted out scenes
Human life isn’t sacred . . . ends justify means.



What are we going to do about our John’s socks?
They have the most awful whiff!
Even before he enters the room
People begin to sniff.
I don’t know how long we can stand the pong,
Each day it gets steadily worse;
We must have sinned in some previous life
To be afflicted by such a curse.
We’ve tried every remedy known to man;
Even scrubbed his feet with carbolic.
We’ve turned to drink to escape the stink
And ended up alcoholic!
What are we going to do about our John’s socks?
We asked the doctor in desperation.
He said, “Well, I can remove the smell,
But only by amputation!”
We don’t know where else there is left to turn,
We’re so sick of the smell of cheese.
If anyone out there has ideas to share,
Answers on a postcard – PLEASE!!



Someone I know
Dislikes me, I think,
Presses me hard
For “Just one more drink . . .”
He makes me stay
When I’ve got to go,
He knows so well
That I can’t say no.
He ruffles my hair
And batters my face;
Puts all my papers
And books out of place.
My body is sore
When he’s finished his game;
My house, upside down,
Is never the same.
He tempts me to eat
The worst kinds of food,
Encourages me loudly
To be very rude,
Then turns around
When the flak starts to fly,
He’s always the first one
To vilify.
I’m just not sure
How much I can take,
All of these years
With hardly a break.
I must make a stand
And drive him from sight
But the trouble, you see . . .
It’s ME I’ve to fight!



The boy,
Trying to catch time in his arms,
To find he is a man.



It was hot in the shadowed room
And the Summer breeze flicked
The closed curtains
Through the open window
Inside we silently sorted
The clothes of our dead father
His young bright eyes
Laughed at us
From the faded photo
On the dresser
Taunting our unspoken grief
We removed his clothes from the wardrobe
Reverencing each item for a moment
Snuffing in the smell
Of him
And trying to fix
The jerky images that jumped in our heads
Without speaking
We folded each item
With our memories
And stuffed them
Into the black bin liners
Ready for the charity shop



Spiders are my biggest fear,
I cannot stand it when they’re near.
I jump upon my bed and shout
Whenever spiders are about.

Their legs are long and hairy, too,
For chasing after me and you.
They scoot across the bathroom floor
To scuttle under my bedroom door.

And even when they can’t be seen
There’s evidence of where they’ve been
If a cobweb tickles my neck
I leap up a gibbering wreck

I sense their presence all around
I feel my heart begin to pound
I search each room in trepidation
Fearing spider infestation

I know they’re waiting in their hordes
To pounce on me from skirting-boards.
I lie awake all night in dread,
Imagining spiders in my bed.



Noise of a clumsy aeroplane
Clawing the sky
Throbbing engines in querulous queues
Tannoyed messages
Bing-Bong and die
Endless “Excuse me’s” brushing past
Everyone’s getting ready to fly
Jostling bodies make my mind spin
I have so much to say to you
But the words seem to die
As so many interruptions mar
This goodbye



You were gone
Leaving only that
Where you had been sitting
A moment ago
And an empty glass
Your red lips
Still pressed to the rim



He did not see the thing that killed him,
Too intent on what had thrilled him:
The early sun on the frosted trees,
The Christmas Card look of Winter’s first freeze.
This was the scene that so appealed
As black ice on the bend took him into the field.



If I had a dog
I’d call him Butch
I’d hug him hard
And love him much

If I had a dog
I’d teach him tricks
Throw him balls
And chuck him sticks

If I had a dog
He’d roll on command
I’d tickle his tummy
And he’d lick my hand

If I had a dog
We’d splash through brooks
Roam through the park
And chase the ducks

If I had a dog
We’d play all day . . .
But it’s no use
Mum says, “A dog? No way!”



Slobbering, slavering, smelly dogs;
Who wants them?
Licking and bounding,
Barking and growling,
Left on their own all day
And howling,

Snivelling, snarling, savage dogs;
I hate them!
Chasing and biting,
Straying and prowling,
Roaming footpaths and fields
And fouling,



I think
And thinking
I become a different me
Taking the troubled cares of others
Upon my shoulders
I consider everyone’s point of view
Weigh carefully
Everything I do
When I’m alone

Around me
Create a change
A jumble of ideas
Jockey for position
Like sugar stirred into a cup of tea
I become
Part of the throbbing crowd



Think of Christmas without presents,
Think of Christmas without food;
Imagine just another holiday
Without that special, festive mood.

Stop and ask why you are giving
And what you want in return.
Is this the season’s proper purpose?
Should there be only self-concern?

Let the gifts be those of gladness:
Peace and love; an end to pain.
Let your thoughts be filled with sharing
And not obsessed with hopes of gain.

Reasons, just like wrapping paper,
Get torn up and thrown away;
The gifts, absorbed into your empire,
Become forgotten, like the day.

From the chaos find a moment,
Spend some time upon this thought:
True pleasure can only be given,
It’s not something that can be bought



Out on the street
Is where we meet
Down by the shops
We’ve tagged our seat

Although we’re broke
We drink and smoke
Down by the shops
We laugh and joke

We climb and clown
Jump up and down
Down by the shops
The adults frown

Their temper pops
They call the cops
Who move us on
From down the shops



All alone the face at the window
Watching the other boys play
Eyes that float with water
Words that choke
And can never say
His thoughts
He hopes that one day
He will be part of the gang
And not be forever
Like today
Hiding away
Turning back to the empty room
The empty boy


How are you doing?
Fine. Yourself?
I just wondered . . . you know . . .
You know . . .
Oh, that – it’s fine now
Good, Good, Good
Grown a thick skin
It’s the best way
I’ve moved on
I’m pleased.
Thanks for asking
Don’t mention it
Just got to work on the memory now
Yeah, things like that stick in the mind
They do. Yes, they do
Well, got to go
Nice talking to you.
Yeah, you too.
Thanks for your concern
Don’t mention it
Don’t mention


Pound pathetic
Dollar dire
Euro useless
In the mire
With money
Not fantastic
Spending cash
And flashing plastic.



Today the tower was singing
I awoke to the whistling windows
Shaking shutters
And rattling doors
Each windwhipped word
Wailed the history of the hills
Murmured the story of those
Who had made mountains their home
Singing of survival down the centuries
Chanting the ballads of the birds
The wild boar and wolves . . .
That evening
I went up to the terrace
On top of the tower
And looked down to the valley
Like a bird hanging in the air
Scanning the shifting shape
Of the luminous landscape
Watching, watching
A falcon

* click here to see a animated version of this poem VIDEO VERSIONS OF MY POEMS


Climate change
Global warming
Weather strange
Storm clouds forming
Polar melt
Waters rising
Fasten belt
People’s greed
Damaged planet
Broken reed
Humans ran it
Future’s bleak
What does it hold?
Hothouse freak
Or endless cold
Stop it now
It’s not too late
Sacred cow
Subject to fate
Read the runes
Know what we’ve done
Our planet’s fortune’s
To be lost or won
Make the choice
We must go green
Raise your voice
This waste’s obscene
It’s so clear
There’s not much time
All life is dear
The Earth’s death a crime



The first time that he hit her
It took her breath away
A sudden act of violence
She didn’t know what to say
Later he was sorry
He couldn’t be nice enough
His usual loving self
Leaving would be tough
And so she stayed
And braved the blows
And no longer felt it strange
And so the cycle grows  and grows
A violent person doesn’t change


Olders all think they know me
Take one look an' wanna judge me
Think cause of my dress code
I'm a badass G on the wrong road
No wonder I wanna explode

Teachers say wanna grow me
Have the answers and wanna show me
But they don't know me
School don't wanna include me
They talk about makin' me able
Civilised, calm an' stable
They only want to climb that league table

Shopkeeper just see the hoodie
Thinks I up to no good me
Thinks that I wanna rob he
Follows me round the shop he
Then thinks I'M rude
Cause bein' misconstrued
I return HIS bad attitude

Feds play their part in this game
Yeah, I'm ALWAYS to blame
I'm out on the streets
For my mates meets and greets
But this cause consternation
To the local olders population
An' I end up down the fed station

I have one thing left to say
An that's at the end of the day
All you olders out there
You're not bein' fair
You gotta get some balance
And give the youth a chance
Jus' remember that you were young once




He’s no lover
My big brother
Though he thinks that he’s quite hot
Acts the cool dude
Thinks he’s well rude
But everybody know’s he’s not

His wolf-whistle
Makes girls bristle
But he doesn’t see the harm
Talks the patter
Fails to flatter
Feels they can’t resist his charm

He’ll discover
My big brother
Show-offs are what all girls dread
All that charm
Sparks a smarm alarm
Well, that’s what my best friend just said