In Competition No. 3210, you were invited to provide a poem or a piece of prose containing words from the phonetic alphabet.
The brief didn’t stipulate that you incorporate all 26 words, but hats off to those who shoehorned them in. In a whopping, wide-ranging entry, with echoes of Keats and MacNeice, and ‘Papa’ Hemingway looming large, Nick Syrett, Nick MacKinnon and Frank Upton shone, but it was a terrific performance all round. The winners earn £30 each.
“Why on earth in ’56 did someone rearrangeThe old phonetic alphabet of 1943,While leaving just four letters of its twenty-six unchangedAs Charlie X-ray Mike remained and Victor kept his V?Quebec has now replaced the Queen and Love’s gone down the pan.New Whiskey killed off William while November did for NanAs Easy, Fox and How and Jig were all flushed down the bogWith Peter, Uncle, Oboe, Sugar, Item, Tare and Dog;And Able, Baker, Zebra, George were also cancelled thenBy the random vandalism of some bureaucrat’s red penWhich added some replacements which scarcely augur wellLike Yankee Tango Uniform and Zulu Golf Hotel.But I’ve made some recent changes for my private use aloneAnd I warn the perpetrator if I catch him on his ownThat, on behalf of words to which he gave the coup de grâce,I’ll shove his P-for-Pen right up his K-for-Khyber Pass.Martin Parker
“Mike deserved an Oscar for gloominess. His face and the November morning were a uniform grey. Then Jeeves materialised like those johnnies in India on the astral whatsit.‘The star-crossed lovers, Jeeves.’‘Romeo and Juliet, sir?’‘Mike and Charlie.’‘Sir?’‘Aka Charlotte. Papa owns a whisky distillery but doesn’t drink, and a hotel with a dance band but thinks the foxtrot and tango are the devil’s work. And he objects to Mike. He wants an alpha male son-in-law, like Wolfe of Quebec or someone fighting the Zulu at Rorke’s Drift. And someone rich.’‘And I’m poor,’ said Mike, ‘and play golf.’‘Dealing with poverty first, sir, might I suggest a yankee at Sandown? Sierra Madre, Rose of Lima, Nile Delta and Golden Kilo.’Jeeves has an X-ray eye for horses. Mike put his shirt on them and proved victor.‘Bravo, Jeeves!’‘Bravo!’ came Mike’s echo. ‘Now for the hero.’Nicholas Hodgson
“I had, to sample and to sell,A kilo of Blue Mango.I phoned a luxury hotelAnd danced a solo tango.I booked a flight. We met that night.The stars shone over Lima.I glowed in their romantic light,But I’m a foolish dreamer.Long story short, all systems fail.She had me in the frame.Her partner was an Alpha maleAnd Victor was his name.Bravo, my dear. You played it neat.Your nerves could handle risky.And now I hang out on the streetAnd beg for cash for whiskey.Basil Ransome-Davies
“Poor Romeo, his spelling was a matter of concern,An Oscar for his writing was a prize he’d never earn,And when he wrote ‘Dear Juliett’ his letter she’d returnExplaining Juliet had just one ‘t’.‘My spelling isn’t uniform,’ he answered, ‘yet it’s trueI’d learn to foxtrot, tango or do anything for youApart from learning how to spell, for that I cannot do,A decent speller I shall never be.Alas, I know your papa and your kith and kin as wellWould rather I were in Quebec, or India, or Hell,And yet this proper Charlie who will never learn to spellOn bended knee begs, come and live with me!’The cry, ‘Bravo’, will echo down the ages for these two,Each of them a victor who, while living, never knewTheir alpha to their omega would speedily ensue,When joined in death will live eternally.Alan Millard
“In an echo of an earlier era, the band switched from a foxtrot to a tango. Ordering another whiskey, Charlie asked, ‘The Delta variant from India?’Poirot beamed. ‘Bravo, mon ami! Your Papa was right. The virus arrived in South Africa from Sierra Leone in November — the symptoms are uniform throughout the hotel.’‘Might an X-ray help?’ ventured Hastings.‘Hardly.’ Poirot stepped from the ballroom towards the Juliet balcony. He watched two figures approaching. The taller, although a kilo overweight, was plainly the alpha male.‘Golf,’ he said. ‘It is a game most detestable, n’est-ce-pas? But I think the Yankee will eventually prove the victor.’Hastings said, ‘Actually, Poirot, Mike is from Quebec. He won an Oscar playing Romeo in a production set in Lima.’Down below, some locals were playing double-or-quits.Regarding them, Poirot remarked suddenly, ’Heads I win, tails, Zulus!’ His eyes twinkled.J.C.H. Mounsey
No. 3213: art nouveau
You are invited to submit a villanelle whose first line is: ‘The art of [insert gerund of choice here] isn’t hard to master…’ Email entries to email@example.com by midday on 18 August.