Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: poets bemoan a problematic appendage

Spectator competition winners: poets bemoan a problematic appendage
‘Take pity on my face. You see,/ These brows are always arched’. [Ian Dickson / Contributor]
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In Competition No. 3246, you were invited to submit a poem in the style of the poet of your choice about a problematic appendage.

Taking pride of place alongside Philip Larkin’s troublesome penis were Heaney’s big toe, Shelley’s belly, and a series of noses, among them Mike Morrison/Ogden Nash:

This nose/conk/beak/hooter/schnozzle

Has brought me nothing but anguish and schemozzle...

An honourable mention also goes to Alex Steelsmith/Edward FitzGerald:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on – and there’s the Rub; it doesn’t quit.

      It probes a Naris, Concha and anon

Explores a Sphincter, Orifice and Pit...

The winners, below, earn £20 each.

Shall I compare thee to the King of Spain’s?

To Walsingham’s or Raleigh’s? Francis Drake’s

Or Marlowe’s? To Da Vinci’s, which he trains

Long, very like Medusa – sans the snakes?

A plague on thee, beard! On each arrant knave

Who plucks and pulls at thee and calls thee ‘scruff’,

Cries ‘William, we beg thee, have a shave!

Unbeard thyself, good Will, we’ve seen enough.’

To shave or not to shave: aye, there’s the rub!

Whether to live not whiskered but bare-chinn’d,

Each morning thus to lather and to scrub,

Or face the barbs, by nature’s course untrimm’d,

While green-eyed knaves, hoist by their own petard,

Shall weep that they’re not bearded like the Bard?

David Silverman/Shakespeare
When I consider how my life is wreck’d,

For half my days are spent in pain, and knowing

I’ll bear the torture of a nail in-growing,

That’s brutalising my big toe, uncheck’d.

The nail invades my flesh, I can but hobble,

With throbbing toe enlarged by inflammation,

Pray offer me relief through amputation

I fondly ask, while envying the Pobble.

A simple op could give me back my life

And yet I’m forced to toe the line, I fear,

Endure my damaged digit’s sorry state.

Thousands seek to feel the surgeon’s knife

Yet waiting lists are long and slow to clear;

And, suffering, I only stand and wait.

Sylvia Fairley/Milton
You know my jolly smile, my grin

      When by a tomb, amazed,

Yet whether grim or gaily glum,

      My brows are always raised.


The hurly-burly of the rails,

      A May breeze breathing soft,

The snick of angry hockey-sticks –

      My brows are roused, aloft.


And even when a ‘modern’ church

      Upon my eyes is foisted,

Some sense a kindness in my scorn,

      My eyebrows being hoisted.


Dear Lord, should I attend thy grace,

      My soul severely parched,

Take pity on my face. You see,

      These brows are always arched.

Bill Greenwell/Betjeman
I want a right foot, one to match the left,

That’s neatly shaped, and featly, that does well

At showing off, enchanting, one that’s deft

And nimble for adventures, one to tell

A tale of lusty and heroic heft.

But what I’ve got’s this inward-curving shell.

It only hobbles like a shackled brute,

No prize for beauty, and a drag, to boot.


No mountebank can switch a crooked limb,

So let it build its story as it can,

Display my muscled prowess when I swim

The Grand Canal or Hellespont; no man

Can ask for more or find a sweeter hymn

Than loving mistress sings from her divan.

For, after all, one foot is not the part

That’s foremost entering the female heart.

D.A. Prince/Byron
My long appendage serves me well

When lovely lassies choose tae call

But vicars say it’s made in hell,

A problem tool.

And yet on me it casts a spell.

It makes me drool.


I cannot sing too high its praise.

It pleases folk in many ways;

It can excite, delight, amaze

Both old and young.

It’s been a blessing all my days:

My silver tongue!

Max Ross/Burns
I ponder, as, beside the Lakes,

I walk in sunshine, wind and rain,

On how much self-control it takes

To camouflage this constant pain.

And yet I cover countless miles,

Despite these agonising piles.


And then, whene’er I take a rest

Beside the many sparkling streams,

The pain becomes more manifest,

But only Nature hears my screams…

No torture was there e’er employed

As dreadful as the haemorrhoid!

C. Paul Evans/Wordsworth
My leg, born dead, is cold as steel

And yet we’re still attached.

I drag it round, it cannot feel:

Friends reckon us well matched.


My leg, born dead – it is my left –

Will never have its say

And though I know its awful heft,

It cannot walk away.

Adrian Fry/Stevie Smith

No. 3249: a fine romance

You are invited to submit an extract from a Mills & Boon-style novel whose central character is a contemporary politician (please specify). Email entries of up to 150 words to by midday on 11 May.