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’brimmingWith 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 homeThere 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 tuberculosisWith 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 spentCropping grass and causing no offence,Living as you should, where is the senseIn cutting your days short without consentFrom those who care for you? Is their dissentWorth nothing in a world where rigid rulesDemand that you must die? Are men such foolsThat they have no discretion? To relentWould cause no harm at all. GeronimoI weep for you as you await your fate,Dignified and tall, your soulful eyesLooking at the world as if you knowWhat 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 meAs 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 IncaFor my yarn, which is soft as a feather —George Eustice, you’re not a deep thinkerAnd have no moral fibre whatever.Bill Greenwell
“Kiwi alpaca! Trace Kontiki’s wakeagainst the north Pacific’s westward flood;climb to the breathless crater where the lakelaps at the Emperor Pachakutiq’s stud.There were your fathers bred — the quipu knotspreserve the tangled archive of your blood,and there the hostage Chanka children spunyour 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 Picchuwhere Atahualpa hunted with the sun.You fled the horses to the Altiplanobut Spanish steel becomes an English gun,and, for extinguished Inca culture, youmust stand memorial, Geronimo.Nick MacKinnon
“Because I am a cowI’m moved to wonder howa single camelidcan leave this world, amida frenzy in the pressand a nation in distress.There’ll be a place in heavenfor more than twenty seventhousand tested cattlewho sadly lost the battle:I’m pretty sure you’ll findthat no one ever signeda grand, world-wide petitionto plead for a remission,which makes me ruminateon 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 firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 22 September.