Lucy Vickery

What’s not to love

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In Competition No. 3085 you were invited to submit a poem in dispraise of Valentine’s Day. The day is said to have its roots in the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia. But one scholar has proposed the theory that it was Chaucer who first designated 14 February as a day of love in his poem ‘The Parlement of Foules’, and I wondered if any of you would come up with a Chaucer-ian pastiche (you didn’t).

The challenge certainly struck a chord, though, and you captured the ghastliness well: mediocre, overpriced dinners, chocolate genitalia, nasty cards — or no cards at all… A consolatory handshake to Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Susan McLean, Hamish Wilson, Robert Schechter and Mike Morrison, who were unlucky losers. The winners, printed below, pocket £25.

A curse upon thee, Valentine —

Thou saint of woe and strife,

Who gave me leisure to repine

Of what I loved but was not mine —

Who stole away my life.

I raise a wall of years, months, hours,

As strong as prison stone,

That shields me from your hearts and flowers

Your lovers’ vows and perfumed bowers.

I am a rock, alone.

Blank diary page shows ‘Feb Fourteen’,

A date so grimly gay.

That card from bold Miss Everdene

I would that I had never seen!

A curse upon this day!

Frank Upton

For the mated or unmated,

14 February’s grim.

Roman priest decapitated?

Bloody perfect eponym.

In a box shaped like no heart

That ever beat in any breast,

The calories are off the chart

At stern tradition’s sweet behest.

For those with floral allergies,

The posies are a perfect pain,

And cognitive abilities

Can dwindle from too much champagne.

The theme, allegedly, is love,

About which everyone’s confused.

When red push comes to satin shove,

A heart of flesh is not amused.

Chris O’Carroll

Each day I place you on a plinth,

But why must I, with fervent gush,

Praise this one, full of shallow synth,

And chocolate hearts, and velvet plush,

To kowtow to the unseen Shogun

That orders orgies of this pap,

That sells each vacuitic slogan,

Each load of recrudescent crap?

Are lovers now so Gadarene

That they must drown in scented wax,

All wrapped in polyethylene,

To bring on bogus ‘heart’ attacks?

My dear, of course I’ll genuflect

At this pink, nihilistic shrine —

Such sentiments we’ll each confect:

But let them, please, be anodyne.

Bill Greenwell

I sent my love a Valentine.

It made me feel so small

To see she’d posted it online,

For mockery by all,

A crushing insult. Why would not

A picture of a horse

Make any normal woman hot

For sexual intercourse?

My heartfelt, subtle message was

That I’m not gelded or

Unmanly, but as virile as

The stallion in St Mawr.

A curse on Valentines. They’re ways

To breed discord and schism.

What happened to romance these days?

I blame feminism.

G.M. Davis

They that lack power to lie for want of words

Can purchase cards depicting shrimp-pink hearts

And turtle doves and lovesick calling birds,

Imagined flowers and Cupid’s bow and darts.

Within these cards are verses short and trite

Festooned with curled motifs below, above,

In which ill-paid and cynic poets write

Familiar phrases of eternal love.

These cards, each year around the start of Lent,

With roses, forced to blossom out of season,

And chocolates that rot your teeth, are sent

In numbers astronomic beyond reason.

The lonely loveless send these things. And why?

To lie to those with whom they hope to lie.

Philip Roe

The day that’s been reserved for me

Has caused me much anxiety.

It eulogises lechery

With never a word of piety.

I’m not against philanthropy;

Love I have offered readily

But in a spirit neighbourly

Not coated in cupidity.

From heaven’s heights I fail to see

How I am linked romantically

With sentiments that love is free

And letters written lustily.

So be it known I disagree

With notes on promiscuity.

This message comes, most vexedly,

From Valentine, yours piously.

Frank McDonald

No. 3088: Political noir

You are invited to submit a short story in the style of hard-boiled crime fiction set in the corridors of power (150 words maximum). Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 27 February.