In Competition No. 2867 you were invited to add a final stanza to a well-known poem.
Nicholas Stone imagined how Coleridge might have continued had it not been for the intrusion of the Person of Porlock. Tracy Davidson’s coda to ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ painted a picture of interspecies conjugal bliss turned sour. And Penn Harvey added a final instalment to Wallace Stevens’s chilly modernist masterpiece ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream’.
There were strong performances all round this week and it was difficult to whittle down the entry. Bill Greenwell, Katie Mallett, Alanna Blake, Mike Morrison and Brian Murdoch were pipped to the post, but only just, by the prizewinners below, who are rewarded with £15 each. Chris O’Carroll takes the bonus fiver.
The Queen had
A word with
‘I fear my husband’s over fond
Of dairy foods,’ she said.
‘Butter can be
The doctor warned
‘If Royal arteries get clogged,
The King could wake up dead.’
Chris O’Carroll/‘The King’s Breakfast’
If you can celebrate the state of ifness
In hortatory verses by the yard,
Your upper lip emphatic in the stiffness
Most proper to a very British bard,
If you can master every sticky wicket
And triumph after falling on your arse,
Then you will find that you are just the ticket
To be a hero of the middle class.
But if, despite all this, you come a cropper —
Fall face down in the mud and can’t get up;
If being macho’s scary or improper,
If stiffened upper lips are not your cup;
Then hug a tree, or paint your nails; whatever.
You’ll find some newer way of getting by.
Lift high your head: we’re all in this together —
Remember, it’s OK for men to cry.
So far it’s only freeze or burn,
But maybe not.
As time goes by we live and learn
To see the sum of things, and spurn
A simple choice of cold or hot.
When health and spirit both are squeezed
I fear that Earth, this fertile plot,
May grow diseased
And simply rot.
G.M. Davis/‘Fire and Ice’
The urn breaks! as that drowsy numbness dulls
My sense, and Truth and Beauty hit the floor,
As one more draught of purple vintage lulls
Me ever closer Lethe-wards once more.
Once Attic shape! Now in a thousand pieces,
As I, now calculating what this means,
Alone and palely gluing and forlorn:
Her priceless artefact from Ancient Greece is
Now in Hampstead, smashed to smithereens —
O What am I to say to Fanny Brawne?
David Silverman/‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’
And so I thought, What could it be?
Perhaps my sombre mood,
That sense of life’s vacuity,
Was caused by lack of food?
I took aim from the coppice gate,
The hope inside me stirred,
And I felt better once I ate
That optimistic bird.
Robert Schechter/‘The Darkling Thrush’
That night, she shed empoisoned tears,
Threw off her womanly disguise,
Spat venom in the daughter’s ears
And in the father’s sleeping eyes.
When morning came, how he did stare!
He looked upon his daughter fair
But saw instead a serpent vile,
For Geraldine had worked her guile.
‘Begone, foul creature!’ cried the Knight.
Sir Leoline, what hast thou done?
Thy Christabel hath fled thy sight,
And who knows whither she hath run?
The venom worked within her veins;
She stumbled, hissing as she fell,
A writhing snake the sole remains
Of lovely lady Christabel.
English Channel ferry packed with foreign lorries
Nosing into Dover every day of the year
With a cargo of secrets,
Homelessness, uncertainty and hope and fear.
I left the stones
on the table.
A.G. Atkinson/‘This Is Just To Say’
Anon, I know, the sleeper will arise,
Provoked by light to hawk itself awake
And seek again what living it can make
As, turn-about, one sells, another buys.
Then is the City seen with other eyes,
A place that none may calmly gaze upon,
The stillness and the gentle silence gone,
The selfsame buildings in another guise.
For what I now behold is like a dream
Where Nature’s beauty could be matched by Man:
Iron and brick, carved stone and harnessed stream
Made wondrous as deep fells and crags to scan.
They are, in truth, yet are not what they seem,
As shifting as the flow these arches span.
W.J. Webster/‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’
No 2870: autumn villanelle
You are invited to submit an autumn villanelle. Please email entries, wherever possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 15 October.