In Competition No. 3094 you were invited to submit a ‘Sonnet Found in a Deserted Mad House’. G.K. Chesterton once observed that ‘poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese’. Well, not the anonymous author of the curious poem that inspired this challenge: line eight of ‘Sonnet Found in a Deserted Mad House’, which appeared in A Nonsense Anthology (1915), edited by Carolyn Wells, refers to ‘…mournful mouths filled full of mirth and cheese…’
Food featured strongly in your excellent and varied compositions (a boiled egg — two mentions — artichokes, yogurt, custard pies…). It was tricky to nominate winners, but after much prevarication I settled on the seven below, who take £20 each.
Wild ayes and noes resound inside my brain
Indicative of something I suppose,
Who has it? Do the noes or ayes? Who knows?
To me the ayes and noes are all insane.
I had a deal; a deal I had for sure,
The only deal that dealt with all ahead,
I put it forward. ‘Here’s the deal,’ I said,
A deal I’d offered many times before.
Now ‘deal, no deal’ with ‘ayes and noes’ all scream
Like frenzied ghosts inside my addled mind
Yet, running free through fields of gold, I find
Cold comfort in a strange recurring dream:
I gloat while all my foes and so-called friends
Fall on their swords and meet their grizzly ends.
My face is smeared with cadmium, ochre, chrome,
I eat a range of paints, but who can blame me?
my brain’s confused and I am far from home
and mad, incarcerated in Saint Rémy.
Although you’ll see I’m parted from one ear
(the drastic outcome of self-mutilation)
the circling crows I yet am doomed to hear
betwixt the bouts of darkness and elation.
In lucid spells I paint with manic speed
more than a hundred paintings — none will sell —
a blaze of sunflowers, cornfields, yet I heed
a sombre truth, and one I know too well:
When I am dead and gone, my frail flesh rotten,
I and my art will surely be forgotten.