In Competition No. 3149 you were invited to tweak an existing book or poem title for lockdown and provide an excerpt from the resulting work.
This excellent challenge, suggested by a reader, produced a vast entry and some cracking titles, including Masefield’s ‘Cabin Fever’ and Jane Austen’s Compulsion, as well as several variations on ‘Come Not into the Garden Maud’. There was more Tennyson from Sally Fiery, whose impassioned ‘Charge of the Price Hike-Brigade’ begins: Half a quid, half a quid,/ Nobody wondered,/ That was the price of soap,/ Now it’s six hundred…’ Commendations also go to Brian Allgar, Barry Baldwin, Frank Upton, Nick Syrett, G.M. Southgate and Iain Orr, whose tweaked title, Joseph Heller’s Covid-19, was an inspired one in these crazy times. The winners below pocket £25.
“The hues that once were pure and brightAre yet a well-remember’d sight,When first we sank into the voidOur radiant hair was unalloy’d,Yet time, unerring, doth exposeThe root’s deception, as it grows.Those locks, combed out and neatly layer’dCannot from nature’s growth be spared,They yet become a troubled oceanImpervious to styling lotion,Untamed, they wander as they willLacking yet the stylist’s skill.Whene’er our freedom is restor’dNeglected tresses shall affordThis lasting memory for the nation,A symbol of incarceration.‘To a Shock of Hair’/Sylvia Fairley
“They lock you up, the government.They make you stay inside the houseUntil your mind snaps and you ventYour irritation on your spouse.Then off you go, for ‘exercise’On lonely streets, in empty parks,Or queue for requisite suppliesIn Sainsburys or Marks and Sparks.For once, the British public knowsExactly what two metres means.Coronavirus boldly glowsIn colour on a zillion screens.Back in the home that’s like a cellYou feel yourself a viral martyr.It’s life sans others that is hell,So suck a lemon, Jean-Paul Sartre.‘This Be the Virus’/Basil Ransome-Davies
“‘Passepartout,’ Phileas Fogg declared, ‘we have much time to lose and only this, my Savile Row home in which to lose it.’Knowing the punctilious habits of his master, Passepartout attended carefully to the detailed itinerary. Over the coming months they would repeatedly proceed, by staircase, hall and connecting door, to every room in the house, withdrawing to withdrawing-rooms, studying in the study, staging circular arguments as to the precise day and date during equally circular turns about the garden. Cook having been furloughed, Passepartout would have sole charge of the kitchen and all related domestic duties while Mr Fogg would concentrate on perfecting a new variant on whist and the cultivation of his beard.‘An excellent plan, Monsieur,’ Passepartout observed. ‘We, at least, will not succumb to the coronavirus.’‘Ah,’ Fogg explained, ‘I fear that, as seasoned travellers, we likely brought it here.’‘Around the House in 80 Days’/Adrian Fry
“Imperially did Kubla Khanthe locked-down pleasure domes decree,and he advised an expert planto isolate each Xanudan,an extramural nookie-banapplied to you and me,since R was measureless to manas anyone could see.He cut the corner, jumped the queue,and though his model was precisea demon-lover rendezvouswas to become his Waterloo,‘Do as I say not as I do’became his sage advice;so now he rues his honeydewand powdered milk of paradise.‘Kubla Khan’t’/Nick MacKinnon
“I wandered round my living room,locked down, hung over, green of gills,when all at once my morbid gloomwas lifted by some daffodils;upon the table, in a vase,like trumpet-wielding saffron stars.Since then I have been working out,read books and seldom watch TV;those daffodils transformed this loutwho’s swapped tequila shots for tea;and though they’re but a plastic bloom,they’ve saved me from pandemic doom.‘Daffodils in a Vase’/Paul Freeman
“The sea is banned today,The shops are shut, the dog goes spareBehind the gates; after French toast, we playCards for a while; we swiffer the kitchen floor,Shimmying the hips, ready to wax parquet.Think of the seaside, God there’s no one there!Except on the re-runs of Coast,Where Nick Crane yomps the once-free shore —Listen! You think of the battered codWith chips, in their polystyrene traps,Backchat and banter, what life is for.Yawn, the police patrol, and one more yawn,Make tedious payments, take some naps,Imagine the seaside crowds reborn,But we’re still here, trying a sparkling pink,While ignorant swamis tell us what to think.‘You May Not Walk on Dover Beach’/Bill Greenwell
No. 3152: domestic bliss?
You are invited to submit a poem about the pleasure — or pain — of a staycation. Please email up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 3 June. NB. We are unable to accept postal entries for the time being.