Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: In memoriam Geronimo the alpaca

Spectator competition winners: In memoriam Geronimo the alpaca
[Andrew Lloyd / Alamy Stock Photo]
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In Competition No. 3215, you were -invited to supply a poem about Geronimo the alpaca. The camelid’s fate was finally settled just the day before the closing date for this challenge, and your entries have an added poignancy now that we know which way the dice rolled for poor old Geronimo.

I admired Gareth Fitzpatrick’s touching clerihew and Chris O’Carroll’s Ogden Nash-inflected submission. Elsewhere, amid echoes of Manley Hopkins and Milton, was a nice spin on Gray’s ‘Elegy’ courtesy of Max Ross along with impressive contributions from J.C.H. Mounsey, Mike Morrison and Duncan Forbes.

The winning entries, printed below, earn their authors £25.

They’re all leaning out from the Golden Bar,

And scanning the Stairway to Heaven,

The martyrs are hymning and stoups are a’brimming

With innocent tides from the Severn:

There’s St Joan with her pyre, St Bernard the Friar,

John Foxe with his quill and his tome,

For en route’s a recruit, who is woolly and cute,

And they’re waiting to welcome him home


There are serfs that were breadless, and kings that are headless,

And saints who continue to bleed,

Preachers garrotted, and badger cubs slotted

’Cos that was what DEFRA decreed;

The nation is grieving (‘they should have reprieved him!’),

And Geronimophiles are in spasms.

But beyond the neurosis, it’s tuberculosis

With innocent blood on its plasms. 

Nick Syrett
TB or not TB? That is the question.

Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes.

It could be croup; it could be indigestion,

But now it seems they’re plotting your demise.


To live or die, O brave All-Black alpaca —

Courageous son of proud Aotearoa?

For you we dance the ancient, noble Haka: 

No Ka Mate for you but loud Ka ora!


You were not born for death, immortal llama!

Tuberculosis? You’d have croaked by now.

Oh! One more test shall end this dreadful drama!

Bovine TB? You’re nowhere near a cow!


And spare a thought for plucky Helen Macca,

Surely an inspiration to us all.

She’ll never crack, she’ll back her black alpaca:

She’ll never put you up against the wall.

David Silverman
When I consider how your life was spent

Cropping grass and causing no offence,

Living as you should, where is the sense

In cutting your days short without consent

From those who care for you? Is their dissent

Worth nothing in a world where rigid rules

Demand that you must die? Are men such fools

That they have no discretion? To relent

Would cause no harm at all. Geronimo

I weep for you as you await your fate,

Dignified and tall, your soulful eyes

Looking at the world as if you know

What lies beyond your friendly paddock gate. 

If only human beings were as wise.

Katie Mallett
Here’s cud in your eye. I’m alpaca,

With a brave Amerindian name:

I’m neither a swot nor a slacker,

But I work for you all, just the same —


You can pet me or stroke me or fleece me

As long as you don’t feel my head –

I hear Defra has plans to decease me,

But I’m no use to anyone dead.


You could say that I offer you karma,

A woolly sensation, a lull,

But be warned, I am no Dalai Llama —

I will screech if you’re coming to cull.


I was worshipped by every Inca

For my yarn, which is soft as a feather —

George Eustice, you’re not a deep thinker

And have no moral fibre whatever.

Bill Greenwell
Kiwi alpaca! Trace Kontiki’s wake

against the north Pacific’s westward flood;

climb to the breathless crater where the lake

laps at the Emperor Pachakutiq’s stud.

There were your fathers bred — the quipu knots

preserve the tangled archive of your blood,

and there the hostage Chanka children spun

your wool into the worsted of the gods.


Smallpox killed them. We will kill you too.

Your lunar sacrifices are undone,

and tourists rule the seat at Machu Picchu

where Atahualpa hunted with the sun.

You fled the horses to the Altiplano

but Spanish steel becomes an English gun,

and, for extinguished Inca culture, you

must stand memorial, Geronimo.

Nick MacKinnon
Because I am a cow

I’m moved to wonder how

a single camelid

can leave this world, amid

a frenzy in the press

and a nation in distress.

There’ll be a place in heaven

for more than twenty seven

thousand tested cattle

who sadly lost the battle:

I’m pretty sure you’ll find

that no one ever signed

a grand, world-wide petition

to plead for a remission,

which makes me ruminate

on a bovine’s unsung fate.

Sylvia Fairley

No. 3218: cooking the books

You are invited to submit a recipe as it might have been written by the author of your choice (maximum 150 words). Please email entries to by midday on 22 September.