Lucy Vickery

Animal magic | 23 May 2019

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In Competition No. 3099 you were invited to dream up an imaginary animal that is a hybrid of two existing ones and write a poem about it.

The discovery, some time ago, that the Romans called a giraffe a ‘cameleopard’ (also the subject of a poem by Thomas Hood) gave me the initial idea for this challenge. I was then reminded of it when reading Spike Milligan’s Book of Milliganimals with my son (remember the Moo-Zebras and the Bald Twit Lion?).

Your fantastic beasts included the Octophant, the kangasheep, the corgiraffe and a couple of llamadillos. It was a difficult comp to judge: there were loads of entries of great merit — many from old hands but plenty from newcomers too. Commendations to Andrew Marstrand,  David Caney, Dominic Croft and Ian Barker; £25 to the winners.

The mismatch of giraffe and jackal

Produced the rather weird girackal.

The top half had a life of ease,

Nibbling at the tops of trees,

But while it chewed its leafy cud

The bottom scavenged guts and blood.

‘It seems,’ the top said, ‘not quite fair

With me up here and you down there.’

‘Not so,’ the answer came, ‘it’s fine —

You play your part and I play mine.

We are a team without an ego,

Wherever you or I go, we go.

Your height means you can watch for trouble,

While I love sorting muck and rubble.’

Which shows there is no need for schisms

In any hybrid organisms.

W.J. Webster

A cormorant and a May bug met

And, wondering if they should beget,

They pondered then declared, ‘Why not?’

And so it was the pair begot.

When, in due course, a cormay hatched,

Its separate parts were not well matched:

It had a pin-sized head, no beak,

And massive body, black and sleek.

In two minds, neither side agreed

Upon which nutrients to feed,

Or what might make the ideal dish,

One favoured roots, the other, fish.

The moral here is plain as day —

A beast whose name links Cor with May

To work as one was not designed

And always would be misaligned.

Alan Millard

It makes no difference what I try

With fluids antifungal,

My room resembles Porky’s sty,

Or teeming, fetid jungle.

The creature that creates this mess

Is halfway jungle swine,

A peccary, say, more or less,

This mucky friend of mine.

It never troubles if it’s blamed

For sins like breaking wind.

It’s too defensive to be shamed;

Impregnably thick-skinned,

It curls itself into a ball

For it’s half-armadillo.

The squalor’s not my fault at all —

It’s just my peccadillo.

Frank Upton

The crocodove you cannot love

Despite its calming coo.

In water, air or anywhere

Beware: it’s after you!

Its feathers (white) are just the sight

To make a poet pause.

But take your ease and it will seize

Your head between its jaws.

Its calming song has put you wrong

(The reason it’s deployed)

And you’ll be tossed, chewed up and lost,

The creature overjoyed.

So false a friend serves one odd end,

Proving to you and me

How avian guile and reptile smile

Succeed as policy.

Adrian Fry

I once safaried on the plain

And this is what I saw:

A thing which had a lion’s mane

And roared a lion’s roar

And at its front were lion’s claws,

Its back had cloven feet;

And in between majestic roars

It gave out plaintive bleats

Its mouth was full of fearsome fangs

Which champed upon the grass;

They roamed about in woolly gangs,

A fierce, majestic farce.

The lion — if I’m right — (I am)

Should therefore not lie with the lamb.

Joseph Harrison

There lurks a creature, it is said,

a hybrid monster, half baboon;

an orange pelt adorns its head

to crown the part that’s pure buffoon.

The other half’s a porcine species

with trotters that are undersized —

I’ve heard it drops gold-plated faeces,

We’re going to get them analysed.

The poor beast thinks it’s well-endowed,

long may it bask in that delusion:

in tweets nocturnal, it’s avowed

that’s down to swinish-primate fusion.

Its snouty mouth is small and pursed,

and at the rear, its massive rump

is where it keeps its brain — but first

its name? We call it Donald Trump.

Sylvia Fairley

No. 3102: fan mail

You are invited to submit a fan letter from one well-known person from the field of fact or fiction to another (please specify). Email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 5 June.