sounding off with roger mcgough

Listen: hear anything? 🙂

“The Thief” by Rory Mitchell (2018)
by Roger McGough

A stranger called this morning 
Dressed all in black and grey 
Put every sound into a bag 
And carried them away 

The whistling of the kettle 
The turning of the lock 
The purring of the kitten 
The ticking of the clock 

The popping of the toaster 
The crunching of the flakes 
When you spread the marmalade 
The scraping noise it makes 

The hissing of the frying pan 
The ticking of the grill 
The bubbling of the bathtub 
As it starts to fill 

The drumming of the raindrops 
On the windowpane 
When you do the washing-up 
The gurgle of the drain 

The crying of the baby 
The squeaking of the chair 
The swishing of the curtain 
The creaking of the stair 

A stranger called this morning 
He didn't leave his name 
Left us only silence 
Life will never be the same

~ from Pillow Talk: A Book of Poems (Puffin Books, 1992)


We often take the small, ordinary sounds — the music of everyday life – for granted.

When I first read this poem, the “whistling of the kettle” made me smile because we have a Mickey Mouse tea kettle that sounds like a cross between Steamboat Willie’s whistle and a choo choo train (it has startled several guests). 🙂

And of course I loved the mention of marmalade; that scraping sound of butter and/or any kind of jam is always a good thing. McGough also gives away his Britishness with the term “washing up,” instead of the more American “doing the dishes,” or “washing the dishes.”

Sounds I Like

pen scratch on paper

little click of my ballpoint pen

tap tapping on keyboards

promising crack of a new book’s spine when you first open it

turning of the page

gentle tumble of Cheerios in my bowl

Sounds I Miss

my mother rhythmically chopping garlic and green onions with her cleaver

the coffee percolator in my parents’ house

my father’s harmonica

gentle trade winds

brrring-ring of a bicycle bell

Sounds I Want the Sound Collector to Take Away

police car and ambulance sirens

landline telephone ring

dentist’s drill

fingernails scraping blackboard


How about you?

While you’re contemplating, enjoy McGough reading his poem:


The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the Roundup at Small Reads for Brighter Days. Zip on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!


*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

40 thoughts on “sounding off with roger mcgough

  1. I enjoy early morning sounds:
    A lone plane traveling somewhere
    The meow of a little black kitty who comes every morning to be fed
    The drip of the coffeemaker
    The clock on my kitchen wall ticking away
    Bird call
    The sound of children on their way to school

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, so we’re on the same wavelength, Jama – McGough’s poem comes from the Pillow Talk collection and my post today is about Smidgey’s pillow talk!
    A sound I love, love, love is a baby’s belly laugh.
    (My daughter regularly sends me Baby TikToks – always brings a smile. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on the crowd noise and purring (so comforting). Len claims I have a very loud sneeze; not sure whether it’s something he’d rather do without or not. 😀


  3. Love your post Jama , poem, the sound of McGough reading his uniquely wonderfilled poem, art and all your thoughts about sounds you like, don’t like and especially miss. I like turning of pages, cracking of a new books spine, and the sound of my 3b staedtler mars pencil drawing or writing. Thanks for an enriching rise! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this poem to my husband and he asked if I noticed that our house has a constant hum, the source of which is many things. Now I’m listening and think I hear the heating system downstair and the refrigerator.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every house has its own set of noises/hums. We have creaky back stairs and the annoying sound of our heat pump fan constantly blowing.


  5. Some sounds I like: my dog softly snoring; skates cutting new ice; the powerful whoosh when a hummingbird flies near and past me; fresh coffee pouring into my cup; steady rain when I’m in for the night, and a fire crackling in a fireplace. A sound I loved and miss: my mother’s voice and laughter (melodic in my memory). Thank you for this post – I’m going to think about sounds all day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, those are some good ones, Samantha! Coffee pouring in a cup and steady rain — yes! I also miss my mother’s voice and laughter. I’ve noticed that the sound of her voice is more vivid in my memory than any picture I have of her in my head.


  6. What a delightful poem–and I love your lists, Jama. I would like to tune out highway noise. We’ve always lived close enough to highways that the drone in the background is omnipresent. I tune it out, but it would be lovely to hear absolute silence when I go on the deck and then be able to bask in just the nature noises. I love the little whoosh when our gas fireplace turns on. We just had it serviced this morning, and when the guy turned it on (yay), I rejoiced in that little whoosh :>)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hooray for little whooshes! I feel lucky that we’re not plagued by highway noises. We can hear some traffic but only at certain times. Usually it’s pretty quiet since our house is set back from the main road.


  7. Wonders of our world that we often don’t ponder, Jama. What a marvelous poem to help us pay attention. I love your list, too. Among all those sounds, I actually like hearing the “pop” of my toaster! And here’s a link my daughter discovered and bought a few years ago, though I think she got it from the gift shop at the museum where she works. It’s a gurgling water pitcher, offering so many laughs!


  8. What a cool pitcher. The sound of water pouring is soothing enough, but that extra gurgle does make you smile. Thanks for sharing!! I’ve written a post all about my toaster which I’ll post soon. 🙂


  9. This is such a great poem. I really enjoyed it. As I read I thought about how this poem is detailing ordinary everyday sounds. Poems are all around us and that’s what I especially like. The read aloud of the poem added such a wonderful opportunity to hear the sounds. Your thoughts made a wonderful addition to your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When you think about it, there are so many sounds we take for granted — esp. the small ones (this morning I enjoyed the sound of cheerios landing in my bowl). Silence can be a good thing too.


    1. Train whistles and clacking tracks are the best! They remind me of a good friend, a diehard railroad man, who loved train whistles so much. I think of him every time I hear that sound.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A lovely post, Jama. It made me sad, though. My beautiful, kind mother lost most of her hearing when she was in her early 20s following a bout of the flu. Her mother, my grandmother was also hard of hearing. Certainly, her life was never the same after that. We need to appreciate the wonder of life—that we can hear, and see, taste and feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear about your mom — her world must have been so different after she lost her hearing — esp since she wasn’t born deaf. She knew what she was missing so it must have been a difficult adjustment. We do have to count our blessings.


  11. I’m a bit with Lois here, thinking about the privilege of living in a world of sound, but knowing that Deaf culture does not consider their lack of hearing a deficit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lack of hearing may not be a deficit, per se, but certainly a challenge when living amongst those with hearing who don’t understand what it’s truly like. They do navigate the world differently.


  12. This is a great one. I’m going to save it to use with kids. Such a great prompt to think about sounds! Ruth,

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a charming poem and lovely to hear McGough reading it, too.

    One of my daughters is deaf in one ear so we have talked at our house about how precious sounds are and how protective we are of the sense of hearing.

    Sounds I like: The clicking of a keyboard, the crackling of a fire, ocean waves, John Coltrane when Atticus is cooking.

    Sounds I miss: little girls playing make-believe, little girl laughter

    (I’ll counter-balance that by adding “the sounds of my adult daughters’ voices as we talk about all-the-things” to my list of sounds I love.)

    Sounds I want the Sound Collector to take away: Tornado sirens, the gurgle of water when it’s from a plumbing problem, the weird noises a car suddenly makes when it shouldn’t be making a noise.

    Thanks, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your great lists, Karen. I liked imagining those little girls laughing and playing make believe. And John Coltrane — you lucky woman! I’m with you on weird sounds from plumbing or cars that spell trouble. I also don’t like hearing high winds blowing because I’m always afraid a big tree will fall on our house (and one actually did last month).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, no! I’m so sorry about the tree falling on your house! That can be disastrous. How bad was the damage? I’m so glad you’re okay! I hope you can say the same about the house. xo

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was scary and loud but luckily it hit the edge of the roof rather than falling through it. We’ll have it repaired in the spring. Thanks for your concern.


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