Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: poems with a twist

Spectator competition winners: poems with a twist
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1947: When Now Begins

Elizabeth Åsbrink, translated from the Swedish by Fiona Graham

Scribe, pp. 288, £

The latest competition called for poems with an ingenious twist at the end.

Though popular, this challenge turned out to be deceptively tricky and while there were many accomplished and enjoyable entries, none of your twists truly blew my socks off.

Paul A. Freeman kept it short and topical:

Was it things that go bump in the night,

or an earthquake’s formidable might?

      I have to confess

      that it’s anyone’s guess

coz Boris’s lips are shut tight.

Douglas G. Brown, Max Gutmann and Martin Elster were unlucky runners-up. The six below romp home with £25 each.

Derek Robinson

The deadly battle is renewed each morning;

The enemy, entrenched within the field,

Defeated for a while at each day’s dawning,

Regroups by night, yet I shall never yield.

I arm myself with blades that need no honing

To face the war that must be fought each day,

Steeling myself against the anguished groaning

And cries of pain that permeate the fray.

Blood must be shed; the slicing and the gashes,

The foamy mass that falls upon the ground,

The cuts and thrusts, the sallies and the clashes,

The blackened stumps that tumble all around.

A time may come when shaving’s done by laser;

Till then, I’m stuck with this confounded razor.

Sylvia Fairley

‘He nibbled the lobe of her cowrie-like ear

while whispering words no one else was to hear,

‘the skin is so smooth, it’s like silk on my lips,’

and he nuzzled her ear with affectionate nips.

‘What joy! I’m enchanted,’ he took a small bite,

‘so perfectly formed — yes, an aural delight:

like the shell of an oyster, it’s pearly inside,

those provocative coils leave me helpless,’ he


‘There are so many facets I want to explore

in the delicate organ I’ve come to adore;

it’s all that is left of the breaker of hearts —

I’ve disposed of the rest of her bodily parts.’

Alan Millard

I’m honoured as a lifelong friend to praise the

      bridegroom, Ben,

And tell the bride I know her man will outshine

      other men.

Though most expect the Best Man’s speech to

      tarnish and subvert

The bridegroom’s reputation and to dish up all the


On past misdeeds, immortal sins and all his

      wayward ways,

The bride will be surprised to hear I offer only


For Ben’s a budding Romeo, romantic to the core,

His touch will be as tender as the wavelets on the


His warm embrace will soothe her pain, his words

      will calm her fears,

His searching eyes and loving sighs with move her

      soul to tears.

His kisses will taste sweeter than the rarest ruby


No truer love a bride could find — no better


He’ll swear she’ll be the only one he’ll cherish and


Declaring that he’s never felt such love as this


And if the bride should doubt my word, as new

      brides often do,

Ask any girl who’s here today — she’ll tell you

      that it’s true!

David Silverman

All Hallows’ Eve — Ah, bitter chill! — was


I saw pale hellish lips all gaping wide;

Pale harbingers intoned their horrid warning:

‘The doom you wished for beckons!’ they all cried.

And ‘Trick or Treat? O, which spell did you choose?

Who bewitched you into Taking Back Control —

O Albion! Perfidious your Muse —

Of all except your senses and your soul?

No Beadsman here to pray and intercede,

To count your woes and by opposing end ’em,

To see your changèd mind and then to plead

At last for sense — a second referendum!’

But quoth the corby: ‘Nevermore!’ Appalled,

I saw pale Boris! Tossed and turned, and screamed:

‘La Belle Dame Sans Deal hath thee in her thrall!’ Then turned the news off, went to bed and dreamed.

Basil Ransome-Davies

I gazed at her. I couldn’t help but feel

That she would hurt me if I got it wrong.

I could imagine getting a raw deal,

But still and all the world was full of song.

The others at the table — did they sense

The taut-strung, blended energies that ran

Between us like electric filaments?

She had me on a knife-edge. Man, oh man.

Nobody spoke. Faces were grim with stress.

A gambler should not be a woman’s slave.

What lay in store only a sage could guess —

A cosmic romance or a Boot Hill grave?

She badly needed me to make a call;

Her eyes said it, those eyes of amethyst.

I wanly glanced around the village hall

And tossed a mental coin and muttered, ‘twist’.

Katie Mallett

I remember summers

When days were dry and warm

And now and then to clear the air

There’d be a thunderstorm.

I remember summers

When everyone would lie

And sunbathe anywhere they could,

Not thinking they might die.

I remember summers

When skies were dull and grey

And rain drove tourists from the beach

To other kinds of play.

Yes, I remember summers

Spent in seaside bars.

But summers are just memories

Now I live on Mars.

Your next challenge is to submit a short story entitled ‘The last bumble bee’ (up to 150 words). Please email entries to by midday on 25 July.