Mumbling in March

(It’s been a while since I heard the sparrows mumble, and, truth to tell, in all this excitement, I quite forgot to gather the crumbs. For those who are also suffering from the old omnesia, this is an occasional column gathering together some lighter verses that have appeared as a result of Twittering, etc. They’d be the equivalent of five finger exercises if sparrows had fingers.

No doubt there are more lost in the stream, but here are a few from the usual categories – protest croaks, incontinent geese, murderous bears, cephalopodiatry, mondegreens, trains and quatrains… )

Hammam upon Tyne

The Cooncillors that built the Pool
and gave themselves the Baths,
they modelled them on Istanbul
and did not stint the cash.

But noo they are the People’s
and belong to aal the Toon,
so if their numbers do not wash,
we’ll pull the Cooncil doon.

(Sparrow-mumbling supplementary: here’s a vid of the above from the protest/requiem on the last day of the City Pool:


A Night Story

Once upon a time there was a Murder Bear.
Then he killed everyone. The End.

Why aren’t you asleep yet?
‘You frightened me talking about Murder Bear.’

Well, you don’t need to be afraid of Murder Bear unless he finds you.
‘He isn’t going to find me, is he?’

Yes. Yes he is going to find you:
Murder Bear finds everyone…eventually.

‘How can he tell?’
By your sweet, sweet smell.

‘Does he kill everyone?’
D’uh. The clue is in the name.

‘Does he kill Goldilocks?’
‘Goldilocks is no longer with us.’

‘Does he kill Paddington?’
Yes, he really goes to town on Paddington.

‘Does he kill Postman Pat?’
He beats him to death with his own cat.

‘Does he kill Blue Peter?’
With a parking meter.

‘Does he kill News at Ten?’
With a fountain pen.

‘Does he kill the X Factor?’
He takes the judges out with a tractor.

‘Does he kill Harry Potter
There is a considerable amount of J.K. Rowling-related slaughter.

‘When is he coming for me?’
Once he’s dealt with your poor parental units.

‘You can beat him, though, can’t you?’
I thought I’d explained there really is no hope. Now go to sleep.

‘Night night.’
Night, Honey Bun.


The Deepstaria Enigmatica Addresses Our Camera

Who sent this spy I need not know –
invent the eye and see me glow.

The currents make me kerflufflicle:
I’m the curve of neck and the ruff that tickles.

I inside-outicate, I napkinise:
a knack as intricate as being baptised.

Now I worfle-wrap around my prey –
but it’s falling crap you threw away.

I swellify and then I shimmle –
is this hell I fly in or is it himmel?

I swirlishoop around the shop:
is this dervish soup or deep pea slop?

Pray to the Moon to send you a form –
I may baloomph, but then I zorm.


Shitmo the Gastric Goose


Shitmo was a gastric goose
with bowels as loose as a broken sluice.
And everywhere that Shitmo went
the furnishings were with cack besprent.

If you made slurry in such a hurry
would you be drawn to percussive curry?
Yet, despite the calamitous state of his ass,
Shitmo persistently dined on Madras.

Although his rectum played ragtime tunes
Shitmo insisted on figs and on prunes.
Though Shitmo’s excreta kept hitting the fan
he would not cut back on his bowlfuls of bran.

Small wonder that spoonfuls of cabbagey soup
returned as porcelain-shattering poop;
while after a morsel of beans upon toast
Shitmo excreted a telegraph post.


Remember you’re a Zomble

When the sun doesn’t shine and it’s cloudy and gray
And unholy death is grinning at the tomb as it gapes
But you’ve got to wash the entrails up you found yesterday


Remember, dismember, remember, dismember
Remember, remember, remember (member, member, member)
Remember you’re a Zomble

(Remember you’re a Zomble) x 4

Remember to dismember – what a Zomble, Zomble, Zomble you are

When it’s foggy on the common and the humans can’t see
And I numble up your humbles with my crumbling teeth
Just remember we’re so yucky but we’re zombling free

Chorus (Repeat)


You say Pistorius, I say Petraeus:
one’s not uxorious, the other may slay us –
Pistorius, Petraeus…
uxorious, may slay us –
let’s send them both to jail!


Beware of the nighttrain filled with otters
filleting cheques for your teenage granddaughters:
it maddens the moors with its sordid old racket,
and shakes up the shires with showers of packets;
it passes by ducks who lord it on tractors,
ploughing the soil with the jaws of old actors;
while racing before it down both the rails
run whippets with telegrams tied to their tails.



Bring me my Bow of burning moles,
Bring me my Sparrows of desire;
Bring me my Spatula of foals,
Bring me my Mullet of Kintyre!


Let those filled with trepidation
try self-trepanation:
fears are forgot
when your head is a pepper pot.


Evening is coming, the cake is growing dark
please pour some custard in the old man’s hat
if you haven’t got a mangle, a hammer will do,
if you haven’t got a hammer, grab your squid n chew.

About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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