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In Competition No. 2375 you were asked for an appropriate acrostic poem in which the first letters of each line spell out THERE IS NO JUSTICE.

The key phrase occurred to me because I remembered that in an Australian novel I once published (author Michael Noonan) there was a character, a stationmaster, who had the words picked out in white pebbles on his bungalow lawn. Talking of justice, I regret that for a time the top winner will not receive a bonus prize, since we are temporarily short of sponsorship. We must march through a desert patch until an oasis is spotted. Commendations this week to Martin Parker and Paul Griffin, and a salute but, alas, nothing drinkable to Ray Kelley, whose entry was my favourite. The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each.

Three thousand ducats for a three-month term:

How stupefying was the gall, the sheer

Effrontery of that gentile who had voided

Rheum on my beard and Jewish gaberdine

Each time I crossed his path in the Rialto!

I had good reason, though, to grant the loan.

Sweet would be my revenge, for I imposed

No bond but this, the borrower’s pound of flesh

On the due date, and rumour had his freight

Jetsam and flotsam: I would reap that bond.

Unhappily the plan miscarried. First

Some bloody-minded quibble queered my claim;

Then, thanks to trumped-up law and ducal whim,

I lost my wealth, my livelihood, my faith.

Converted Christian? See me cross myself,

Even as I curse all Christian hypocrites.

Ray Kelley

‘That’s so unfair!’ the tearful child will cry.

He’s sure the wavering adult will comply

Each time he makes his dubious appeal.

Rarely, if ever, is he told, ‘Get real!

Effect will follow cause, as night the day.

If, when the boulder falls, you’re in the way,

Start running, lad. When falling from a height,

No object will distinguish wrong from right,

Or swerve to squash the sinner not the saint.

Justice is all you ask? Oh dear! How quaint!

Under such laws of nature as apply,

Swift sinners will survive, slow saints will die.

That is the world in which we live, you’ll find:

Inflexible, impersonal, not kind.

Child, face the painful truth: you’ve been misled.

Expect no justice. Right? Now, off to bed!’

Keith Norman

Twins are equivalent surely,

Halves of a spiritual whole,

Each closely tuned to the other,

Racing towards the same goal.

Equally loved by each parent —

I acknowledge that is true —

Sharers of innermost secrets,

Never a dissonant view.

Often they go into hiding,

Just the pair, scrambling away

Up to a den in the attic,

Sharing in four-handed play.

Tell me, then, why is my brother

Idol and winner while I,

Crawling along in his shadow,

Envy — and try not to cry?

G. McIlraith

There is no justice. Well, sometimes a crook

Has had to pay the proper penalty

Exacted by the law. But if you look

Round at the world at large, then you’ll agree:

Earth hath not anything to show that’s fair:

Iraqi innocents bombed to buggery;

Sumatra and half Asia’s drowned; somewhere

No one foresaw the forces of the sea.

Once we would scan ourselves for fatal flaws:

Just think, maybe we got our just deserts?

Useless to think that way. Fate has no laws.

Shit happens. Take it, even though it hurts.

That lack of justice, bloody happenstance,

Is just the bitter draught we have to drink.

Carpe diem, then, if you get the chance.

Exeunt omnes sooner than you think.

Brian Murdoch

They crouch in chains, all

Help from counsel barred,

Exposed in cages

Raked by cameras.

Elsewhere, sequestered

In the dark, they lie

Subdued, in silenced


Orange, their waistless

Jump suits make for sly

Unmanning. Faces,

Shorn, shed secrecy...

Their guilt, unproved, mere

Inference from their

Captivity, flouts

Every rule of law.

David Blaber

The greedy fat cat sits and smiles.

His money grows in towering piles.

Each day his unearned income mounts,

Replenishing his bank accounts.

Easy for him, life is no bitch;

Inheritance has made him rich.

Such notions as the need to work

Need never touch this wealthy berk.

On the other hand, there’s honest Joe.

Joe’s very principled (if slow),

Upright and diligent and kind.

Sadly, poor Joe’s got left behind,

The victim of a social scheme

Intended to reward the cream.

Credit the prole, but cheer the toff;

Equality’s a long way off.

Basil Ransome-Davies

No. 2378: Bizarre books

Two titles published in the last 40 years have seduced my attention: How to Fire an Employee and How to Fill Mental Cavities. You are invited to provide an extract from one or the other (maximum 150 words). Entries to ‘Competition No. 2378’ by 3 February.