Lucy Vickery

Tweet beginnings

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In Competition No. 3083 you were invited to submit a poem or a short story that begins ‘It started with a tweet…’.

Hats off to Philip Machin for an appropriately pithy submission:

It started with a tweet —

There’s nothing wrong in that —

But, sadly, indiscreet:

It ended with a cat.

Elsewhere, in a varied and engaging entry, there were echoes of Shelley’s skylark, Lear’s owl and Hitchcock’s Birds. The winners below are rewarded with £25 each.

It started with a tweet, a joke

at his expense, okay, but just

a quip intended to provoke

a smile or some quick counter-thrust:

instead he opted to deplore

its tone, which others duly liked

not to approve of more and more

until the growing numbers spiked

much hope of coming to a truce

as we were hit on either side

by covert forces now let loose

that could, it seemed, not be denied

the chance to give or take offence

at total strangers’ tweeted words

and make bewildered victims sense

the swooping screeching of The Birds.

W.J. Webster

It started with a tweet, the sort

thumbed out before the brain

could re-engage its should-I?/ought

or common sense complain.

A knee-jerk tweet, a silly spat,

a calling of rude names,

a Trump-ish mindless tit-for-tat

like childhood’s playground games.

A nothing-much from nowhere, he

felt he could do no harm.

Some nose-thumb, up-yours repartee;

nothing to cause alarm.

But one retweet goes far and wide;

a squeak becomes a roar.

He never meant it, multiplied,

to start a global war.

D.A. Prince

It started with a tweet, as so much does.

Dip one toe in the maelstrom and you’re lost.

It ended with disaster and the fuzz.

I have the viewpoint of the double-crossed.

One tweet led to another, then we dined.

I ordered tournedos, she chose the carp.

I got a vivid preview of her mind.

The meat was boot-sole but the wit was sharp.

The next move was a foray to Marseille.

We shot the moon on wicked, grown-up fun.

I woke thick-headed on the final day.

My wallet, phone and passport were long gone.

My pride gave up the ghost where Rimbaud had.

My ego said I should have known the score.

The gendarmes hid their smiles, it was so sad.

One thing is certain. I shall tweet no more.

Basil Ransome-Davies

It started with a tweet he read — another paradigm of idiocy. The subjugated masses, Major Volkmann reasoned, had already seen their messaging allowance reduced to 140 characters. Curiously, they had not needed to be bullied or cajoled into accepting such constraints. Indeed, they seemed actually to prefer these half-witted blurtings of intemperate opinion to intelligent dialogue. But then… why not go a step further? Below a certain word limit, in this post-apocalyptic online society, effective political resistance could scarcely be co-ordinated. Reduce the maximum again, and it would become impossible even to articulate coherent opposition to the regime. With dissidence rendered incommunicable, the Party’s authority would be absolute and permanent. And whoever devised the plan would surely receive the highest honours …Excitedly, Volkmann turned to his keyboard. ‘Dear Leader,’ he wrote, ‘I have an idea which may intere…’ — only to be stopped short by the on-screen message: ‘Character limit exceeded.’

David Mackie

It started with a tweet,

the chatter of a sparrow, a hint of insurrection,

a monotony of squabbling. In the bush,

some scuffling, a wood-thrush or three, flautists

caught out, testing tiny gatlings,

disturbing the hermits. The jay

screams its arrival; its cousin’s a crow, raucous,

chalk on a board. The wood-pigeon

coos its constant phooey. And now the bittern

boom-booms its horny way

into the avian chorus. The crane plays

a straight raspberry. Louder still,

its Orangina head just waiting to be preened,

building its imaginary ramparts,

here’s the fattening and paralytic burp

of the web-tongued prezza.

Bill Greenwell

It started with a tweet

Fit to amp the crowd’s heartbeat,

And every hungry street

Could feel the fear.

We could feel it as a thrill,

As a bone-and-marrow chill,

We could feel the urge to kill

Again this year.

He says he’s really smart

And his deals are quite the art.

He has wisdom to impart,

So lend an ear.

It comes as no surprise

When he doses us with lies.

Maybe one day he’ll act wise

And disappear.

Chris O’Carroll

No. 3086: writer’s block

You are invited to submit a poem about the struggle of writing a poem (maximum 16 lines). Please email entries to by midday on 13 February.