The latest challenge, to submit a poem beginning ‘Yes. I remember…’, was suggested by a reader who was very taken with Adrian Bailey’s poem ‘First Love’, a clever riff on Edward Thomas’s much-loved ‘Adlestrop’, published recently in this magazine.
The winners, in an entry that provided a bracing blast of new year nostalgia, earn £25 each.
Yes, I remember Germolene —
the densely-pink tinned-salmon hue,
its smell, round tin, unwonted gloss
like warm and antiseptic glue.
It soothed each graze from roller skates.
Those tumbles from the playground swings? —
anaesthetised. It smelt of care,
did Germolene. And other things.
One of the family: its strength
was ways to cure and keep us cleaner,
and one imaginary friend
(my sister’s) was called Germolena.
All through the bumps of growing up
its company has meant we thrive as
the not-too-scarred or wound-marked ones
but truly what we are: survivors.
Yes. I remember Superman,
Originally called Kal-El,
A hero from another world
Who served Earth’s human family well.
Our yellow sun endowed him with
Great strength and speed. Plus, he could fly.
No gun or bomb could injure him.
He beamed a heat ray from each eye.
His native world blew up. Its shards
Became a lethal green debris
That weakened him and pained him with
The spectre of mortality.
We lack his powers, but this truth
He learned is one we also know:
Some fragments from our origin
Will find us everywhere we go.
Yes. I remember Whathisname.
His eyes were blue, or maybe brown.
He always wore a cheerful look,
Or was that look a mournful frown?
He used to chatter on non-stop,
But wait . . .was he the silent one?
The time I used to spend with him
Was boring, right? Or was it fun?
I do recall as clear as day
I loaned him twenty quid and he
Never paid me back. But wait.
He might have loaned the quid to me.
How’s he doing? Is he dead?
Does he remember me as well?
Please pass on my fond regards.
Or tell him I said go to hell.
Yes. I remember Viking One.
It orbited the planet Mars,
That stepping stone beyond the moon
Which marks our highway to the stars.
The planet’s breathless atmosphere
Stirred up a storm, and from it thrust
Volcanic craters, dodo-dead,
Like rubies in a band of dust.
The orbiter snapped photographs
Of Martian moons, two tiny rocks,
And once the air had cleared, deployed
A landing craft, which took its knocks
To win a plot of soil upon
Another world. Then via a link
Of electronic wizardry
Showed alien skies of salmon pink.
Yes. I remember Paddington —
The name. It was the final stop,
That late June day, of the express
From Worcester, via Adlestrop.
Harassed commuters strained to catch
The tannoy cheerfully declare
A platform alteration here,
Another cancellation there.
And on that afternoon of heat
Each person’s temper seemed to fray;
They jostled, pushed, impatient, rude,
Worn down by the oppressive day.
This torrid place was Paddington —
But it did not provoke despair:
The name’s shared with a kinder friend,
A small, polite, well-meaning bear.
Yes, I remember Carry Ons
Their stone predictability,
The stockings and suspender belts,
The deathless pun on ‘infamy’.
Here, innuendo found a home
Admitting any tired cliché,
A non-exclusive policy
That fit the taste of yesterday.
Politically incorrect, although
Less odious than infantile.
The ribaldry was rather tame —
The principals may now be ghosts,
But not in cinematic Hell.
‘Ironically’ or otherwise,
Online, complete box sets still sell.
Your next challenge, a nod to the recent film version of Cats, is to submit a poem featuring one of T.S. Eliot’s feline creations getting to grips with the modern world, e.g. Skimble-shanks the Railway Cat rides HS2. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 29 January.