Jaspistos

Gods or dogs

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In Competition No. 2404 you were invited to supply a poem beginning, ‘I do not know much about gods; but ...’, substituting, if you prefer, ‘dogs’ for ‘gods’.

As I know almost nothing about either, I judged this with a benevolently neutral eye. I suspect that several of you who disclaimed much knowledge of dogs were lying, but as long as you fooled me I was happy. Three of you competed for my attention — and why not? — by interpreting ‘gods’ in the sense of the upper gallery of a theatre; nobody, however, treated ‘dogs’ as andirons. The prizewinners, printed below, gods before dogs of course, get £25 each except for S.E.G. Hopkin, who is blessed with £30.

I do not know much about gods; but once

Last spring I met a charming deity,
Who told me that he felt a perfect dunce,
For he knew nothing about the laity.
He said that on Olympus dons divine,
In supernatural common-rooms, confer
(After the feast, when Hebe pours the wine)
On whether humans actually occur.
But the debate had lately grown so hot
Between believer and ahumanist
That my acquaintance had been picked by lot
To come to earth to see if we exist.
But I have studied Derrida, and know
That no one can be certain any more
If anything on earth exists — and so
I sent him back no wiser than before.
S.E.G. Hopkin

I do not know much about gods;

But I know quite a lot about odds.
I’m a bookie, you see,
And can quote an SP
From the tic-tac man’s signals and nods.
Your gods, now, are nebulous chaps,
They’re all ifs and buts and perhaps,
Which is why, when it’s true
That we haven’t a clue,
We say that it’s all in their laps.
So the gods I don’t trouble. Instead,
I just set a generous spread.
By placing reliance
On legwork and science
I seem to come out well ahead.
Noel Petty

I do not know much about gods;

But this is a thing that I’ve heard:
Their love-life relies on some silly disguise
As a beast or a bird;
The females they choose to pursue
Transmute into heifers or trees
Or streams — or perhaps (just to muddle the chaps)
Not any of these.
Apart from their passion for change,
What else? It should cause no surprise
That such monsters compete to gossip and cheat
And tell terrible lies.
They live on a magical mount,
Too high for mere mortals to go,
But their carpings and quarrels and manners and morals
Are hopelessly low.
Gabriella Graham

I do not know much about gods; but I live with two and shall not want.

They allow me to lie on soft carpets; they lead me beside the playful stream.
They restore my soul: they lead me in the paths of pleasure
For Their names’ sake.
Yea, though I scamper through fields, which could be
The valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no pit bull terrier; for You are with me:
Your ball and my lead, they comfort me.
You prepare a huge bowl for me
In the presence of jealous felines;
You fondle my head with kind fingers.
My water bowl is always brimming.
Surely goodness and mercy shall
Follow me all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the happy home
Of my gods for ever.
Anne Everest-Phillips

I do not know much about dogs;

But I know quite a lot about bears
And badgers and beavers and hogs
And hippos and horses and hares;
I idolise adders and asps
And admire the asinine ass,
I thrill to the grasshoppers’ rasps
As they rub their hind legs in the grass;
I cherish the velvety vole
And delight in the graceful gazelle,
I adore the magnificent mole
And the heavenly hamster as well;
I’m an expert on everyone’s pet
From ferrets to foxes and frogs
But, alas, to my shame and regret,
I do not know much about dogs.
Alan Millard

I do not know much about dogs; but I know what I like,

And that’s not some terrier type, termed ‘cheeky and cheerful’:
The kind that aren’t happy until they run under your bike,
They yap in your face with delight when you give them an earful;
Called ‘Spot’ by their owners, or possibly ‘Charlie’ or ‘Spike’ —
The owner, the dog, and the name will be equally fearful.
I do not know much about dogs; but I walk in the park,
Observing those creatures which show a more graceful demeanour,
Whose comments on life are expressed in a dignified bark.
Companions to persons of sense, they are quieter and cleaner
And usually larger, for as I’ve had cause to remark,
On the little and noisy and rude I could be a lot keener.
I do not now much about dogs; but a stately Alsatian
Or noble St Bernard would probably suit me the best;
However — no need to proceed to a long explanation —
I haven’t the option to put my ideas to the test.
Mary Holtby

No. 2407: A, V and M

You are invited to incorporate the following words, in any order, into a plausible piece of prose (maximum 150 words), using them not in an animal, vegetable or mineral sense: buck, cow, mole, monkey, pepper, bean, squash, swede, brass, copper, lead, iron. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2407’ by 25 August.