In Competition No. 3106 you were invited to submit a poem with an ingenious twist at the end. This challenge, a popular one, was deceptively tricky and while there were many accomplished and enjoyable entries, none of your twists truly blew my socks off. Douglas G. Brown, Max Gutmann and Martin Elster were unlucky runners-up. The six below take £25 each.
The deadly battle is renewed each morning;
The enemy, entrenched within the field,
Defeated for a while at each day’s dawning,
Regroups by night, yet I shall never yield.
I arm myself with blades that need no honing
To face the war that must be fought each day,
Steeling myself against the anguished groaning
And cries of pain that permeate the fray.
Blood must be shed; the slicing and the gashes,
The foamy mass that falls upon the ground,
The cuts and thrusts, the sallies and the clashes,
The blackened stumps that tumble all around.
A time may come when shaving’s done by laser;
Till then, I’m stuck with this confounded razor.
He nibbled the lobe of her cowrie-like ear
while whispering words no one else was to hear,
‘The skin is so smooth, it’s like silk on my lips,’
and he nuzzled her ear with affectionate nips.
‘What joy! I’m enchanted,’ he took a small bite,
‘so perfectly formed — yes, an aural delight:
like the shell of an oyster, it’s pearly inside,
those provocative coils leave me helpless,’ he sighed.
‘There are so many facets I want to explore
in the delicate organ I’ve come to adore;
it’s all that is left of the breaker of hearts —
I’ve disposed of the rest of her bodily parts.’
I’m honoured as a lifelong friend to praise the bridegroom, Ben,
And tell the bride I know her man will outshine other men.
Though most expect the Best Man’s speech to tarnish and subvert
The bridegroom’s reputation and to dish up all the dirt
On past misdeeds, immortal sins and all his wayward ways,
The bride will be surprised to hear I offer only praise.
For Ben’s a budding Romeo, romantic to the core,
His touch will be as tender as the wavelets on the shore.
His warm embrace will soothe her pain, his words will calm her fears,
His searching eyes and loving sighs will move her soul to tears.
His kisses will taste sweeter than the rarest ruby wine,
No truer love a bride could find — no better valentine.
He’ll swear she’ll be the only one he’ll cherish and adore
Declaring that he’s never felt such love as this before.
And if the bride should doubt my word, as new brides often do,
Ask any girl who’s here today — she’ll tell you that it’s true!
All Hallows’ Eve — Ah, bitter chill! — was dawning;
I saw pale hellish lips all gaping wide;
Pale harbingers intoned their horrid warning:
‘The doom you wished for beckons!’ they all cried.
And ‘Trick or Treat? O, which spell did you choose?
Who bewitched you into Taking Back Control —
O Albion! Perfidious your Muse —
Of all except your senses and your soul?
No Beadsman here to pray and intercede,
To count your woes and by opposing end ’em,
To see your changèd mind and then to plead
At last for sense — a second referendum!’
But quoth the corby: ‘Nevermore!’ Appalled,
I saw pale Boris! Tossed and turned, and screamed:
‘La Belle Dame Sans Deal hath thee in her thrall!’
Then turned the news off, went to bed and dreamed.
I gazed at her. I couldn’t help but feel
That she would hurt me if I got it wrong.
I could imagine getting a raw deal,
But still and all the world was full of song.
The others at the table — did they sense
The taut-strung, blended energies that ran
Between us like electric filaments?
She had me on a knife-edge. Man, oh man.
Nobody spoke. Faces were grim with stress.
A gambler should not be a woman’s slave.
What lay in store only a sage could guess —
A cosmic romance or a Boot Hill grave?
She badly needed me to make a call;
Her eyes said it, those eyes of amethyst.
I wanly glanced around the village hall
And tossed a mental coin and muttered, ‘Twist’.
I remember summers
When days were dry and warm
And now and then to clear the air
There’d be a thunderstorm.
I remember summers
When everyone would lie
And sunbathe anywhere they could,
Not thinking they might die.
I remember summers
When skies were dull and grey
And rain drove tourists from the beach
To other kinds of play.
Yes, I remember summers
Spent in seaside bars.
But summers are just memories
Now I live on Mars.
No. 3109: to bee or not to bee
You are invited to submit a short story entitled ‘The last bumble bee’ (up to 150 words). Please email entries to email@example.com by midday on 25 July.