Jerome Betts—Featured Poet


Bibliophilic Byproduct

Bound pages have been prey for “borrowers”
Since parchment manuscripts preceded print,
With many lenders left as sorrowers
When so-called friends won’t take a gentle hint.

And so ex libris came to find their role
Within the covers, fixed by brush and paste,
Informing all “failed to return” means “stole,”
Their owners’ arms displayed, or graphic taste.

Collectors talk of “Chippendales” and yearn
For other graceful classical designs,
Festoon, and mantle, wreath and ribbon, urn,
Heraldic shields all dressed up to the nines.

Later, pictorials would set the tone
From names like Bewick, Beardsley, Wain, or plates
By Greenaway, Pooh’s Shephard, Reynolds Stone,
And poets’ younger brothers (Housman, Yeats).

Some launch, in cleric’s Latin, a real curse
On those who dirty, dog-ear or deface,
While others bear brief messages in verse
Reminding of the volume’s rightful place.

On library shelves such labels please the eye
With fine engravings worth long careful looks,
So never mind when still small voices cry
It’s time to give back several of these books!


In need of amatory spice,
Or stamina to do it twice?

A dish of oysters worked for many
In days when these were two a penny
And, even further back, prunes, stewed,
Put Jacobeans in the mood..

How quaint seem such old-fashioned notions
Compared with modern pills and potions!

The best is 6X V*g*m*t*,
Which makes the coldest pair ignite
And then compete as demon lovers
At indoor games beneath the covers.

Loved in the land of kangaroos
It’s cheap to buy and safe to use.

Administer this magic spread
At bedtime on a slice of bread . . .
And then—in code, or risk redaction—
Await the call, Lights! Camera! Action!

Flab Is Fab

Fashion demands that female forms
Be, like some lattes, skinny;
Not many dare to flout such norms,
So Fatty yields to Thinny.

High time to break the media spell,
This curse of weight reduction,
And let the fuller figure swell
Unscarred by liposuction.

The Michelin man—that buoyant air,
Those sensuous rolls of rubber—
Should make both sexes well aware
Of beauty born from blubber.

Let clothes-designers start afresh,
Dump models looking willowy
For those with Rubensworthy flesh
Plump, succulent and billowy.

Dictionary Diversions

An outage leaves the laptop pixelless.
Goodbye to google-lexicography!
I’ll look up aye-aye in, I must confess,
My much too long neglected COD.

Concise, this Oxford volume’s classified,
But sports rare fauna, aardvark to zorilla.
(The latter—skunk and mustelid allied—
By no means is a typo-scarred gorilla.)

Ah, here an angwantibo joins the ball
(I’ll just say—in a voce somewhat sotto,
Not wishing to appear a know-it-all—
It’s proud to be related to the potto.)

And thus I find myself down in the P’s
Encountering the phalanger and pongo;
This prompts me next to check among the B’s
In which there bounds an antelope, the bongo.

Stick to the task! The word begins with A!
You’re wasting time, you logophilic dreamer!
So, leaving addax for another day,
At last I learn an aye-aye is a lemur.

Hell Is All Around

Some feel the Dante-cum-H. Bosch
Scenario may just still wash
And is not antiquated tosh,
So fear the fiery depths below
With foul fiends flitting to and fro,
Far from a Sartrean huis clos.

More take the view, like Marlowe’s hit,
“Why this”—the here and now, not Pit—
“Is Hell, nor am I out of it.”,
Inclining to believe despair
Is what embodies best l’enfer
Which lies about us, everywhere.

Queen Of Greens

Taste’s no matter for debating,
Some like garlic, some have doubts.
I award the five star-rating
To a dish of crisp young sprouts.

I’m a rabid Brussels-craver,
Sprouts can soothe my savage breast;
Winter’s one redeeming flavor,
They add sparkle, zing, and zest.

Brussels build up weedy muscles!
Brussels cure your aches and pains!
What is lunch if lacking Brussels,
Small and green like Martians’ brains?

Food-pseuds call them two a penny?
They’re ambrosia, quite divine!
You can never have too many—
That’s why pigeons ate all mine!

A Sonnet Of Complaint

Great shade of Shakespeare,
I—B. Montague
Was no mere progress-sweller, all agree,
But, even so, did not receive my due—
A role confined to Acts One, Two and Three!

Once brought to life upon the playhouse boards
Why do I disappear and leave the stage,
Forsaking fair Verona’s words and swords,
Your smash-hit tragedy’s unwritten page?

I might have made a difference in Act Four
And then, the star-crossed lovers not alive,
Have played my ever-helpful part once more
With fitting farewell lines to end Act Five.

Despite your fame and monumental Folio,
I am, Signor, the chance you missed!

“A Sonnet of Complaint” and “Queen of Greensfirst appeared, respectively, in Extreme Sonnets
(Rhizome Press, 2020), and The Iron Book of New Humorous Verse (Iron Press, 2010).

Jerome Betts lives in Devon, England, where he edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. Pushcart-nominated twice, his verse has appeared in a wide variety of UK publications and in anthologies such as Love Affairs At The Villa Nelle, Limerick Nation, The Potcake Chapbooks 1, 2 and 12, and Beth Houston’s three Extreme collections. British, European, and North American web venues include Amsterdam Quarterly, Better Than Starbucks, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The Hypertexts, The New Verse News, and Snakeskin.