In Competition No. 3085 you were invited to submit a poem in dispraise of Valentine’s Day. The day is said to have its roots in the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia. But one scholar has proposed the theory that it was Chaucer who first designated 14 February as a day of love in his poem ‘The Parlement of Foules’, and I wondered if any of you would come up with a Chaucer-ian pastiche (you didn’t).
The challenge certainly struck a chord, though, and you captured the ghastliness well: mediocre, overpriced dinners, chocolate genitalia, nasty cards — or no cards at all… A consolatory handshake to Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Susan McLean, Hamish Wilson, Robert Schechter and Mike Morrison, who were unlucky losers. The winners, printed below, pocket £25.
A curse upon thee, Valentine —
Thou saint of woe and strife,
Who gave me leisure to repine
Of what I loved but was not mine —
Who stole away my life.
I raise a wall of years, months, hours,
As strong as prison stone,
That shields me from your hearts and flowers
Your lovers’ vows and perfumed bowers.
I am a rock, alone.
Blank diary page shows ‘Feb Fourteen’,
A date so grimly gay.
That card from bold Miss Everdene
I would that I had never seen!
A curse upon this day!
For the mated or unmated,
14 February’s grim.
Roman priest decapitated?
Bloody perfect eponym.
In a box shaped like no heart
That ever beat in any breast,
The calories are off the chart
At stern tradition’s sweet behest.
For those with floral allergies,
The posies are a perfect pain,
And cognitive abilities
Can dwindle from too much champagne.
The theme, allegedly, is love,
About which everyone’s confused.
When red push comes to satin shove,
A heart of flesh is not amused.
Each day I place you on a plinth,
But why must I, with fervent gush,
Praise this one, full of shallow synth,
And chocolate hearts, and velvet plush,
To kowtow to the unseen Shogun
That orders orgies of this pap,
That sells each vacuitic slogan,
Each load of recrudescent crap?
Are lovers now so Gadarene
That they must drown in scented wax,
All wrapped in polyethylene,
To bring on bogus ‘heart’ attacks?
My dear, of course I’ll genuflect
At this pink, nihilistic shrine —
Such sentiments we’ll each confect:
But let them, please, be anodyne.
I sent my love a Valentine.
It made me feel so small
To see she’d posted it online,
For mockery by all,
A crushing insult. Why would not
A picture of a horse
Make any normal woman hot
For sexual intercourse?
My heartfelt, subtle message was
That I’m not gelded or
Unmanly, but as virile as
The stallion in St Mawr.
A curse on Valentines. They’re ways
To breed discord and schism.
What happened to romance these days?
I blame feminism.
They that lack power to lie for want of words
Can purchase cards depicting shrimp-pink hearts
And turtle doves and lovesick calling birds,
Imagined flowers and Cupid’s bow and darts.
Within these cards are verses short and trite
Festooned with curled motifs below, above,
In which ill-paid and cynic poets write
Familiar phrases of eternal love.
These cards, each year around the start of Lent,
With roses, forced to blossom out of season,
And chocolates that rot your teeth, are sent
In numbers astronomic beyond reason.
The lonely loveless send these things. And why?
To lie to those with whom they hope to lie.
The day that’s been reserved for me
Has caused me much anxiety.
It eulogises lechery
With never a word of piety.
I’m not against philanthropy;
Love I have offered readily
But in a spirit neighbourly
Not coated in cupidity.
From heaven’s heights I fail to see
How I am linked romantically
With sentiments that love is free
And letters written lustily.
So be it known I disagree
With notes on promiscuity.
This message comes, most vexedly,
From Valentine, yours piously.
No. 3088: Political noir
You are invited to submit a short story in the style of hard-boiled crime fiction set in the corridors of power (150 words maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to email@example.com by midday on 27 February.