In Competition No. 2887 you were invited to describe your idea of heaven or hell in verse. Nietzsche famously said that in Heaven ‘all the interesting people are missing’ and most of you seemed to agree that paradise might not be all it’s cracked up to be. There’s just space to commiserate with Peter Goulding and John-Paul Marney, who narrowly missed out. The winners take £25; Philip Roe nabs £30.
When the heavenly choir eternal sings a glorious Amen
It’s a certain indication they’re about to start again;
For the singing never ceases in celestial realms above;
And the theme is the imperative for unremitting love.
The classical cantatas are performed by seraphim,
But every hour we blessèd souls all stand up for a hymn.
And a frequent choice for us to sing is hymn 471,
Which Cardinal Newman wrote on earth before his life was done.
This wily Catholic convert always turned a pretty phrase:
‘In all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways.’
Like a village congregation or a rowdy football crowd
We sing together slightly out of tune and very loud.
We sinners died repenting to escape eternal fire;
Now we’ve duties unrelenting to assist the heavenly choir.
We are serving, undeserving, the Almighty in the sky
And our work will never end because we cannot even die.
In this unearthly paradise
Dwell shriven souls, well shorn of vice:
A process of divine inspection
Has deemed them worthy of election.
(Those of faiths they didn’t share
Are thankfully removed elsewhere.)
No flesh without, no brain within
They are not prey to any sin.
Relieved of all the mortal dross
That left them when they passed across,
They feel no hunger, pain or fear
As these are things not suffered here.
It is their longed-for, blessed fate
To stay in this eternal state.
But is it really so perverse
To think hell hardly could be worse?
Heaven is where those blue remembered hills
And all those happy highways where we went
But, later, thought we’d lost are found again,
And finally made real and permanent;
Where, not a wink too soon and always now,
The ‘I remember house’ is filled with light
As golden sunlight floods each room by day
And moonbeams silver every nook by night;
Where, young and easy, under apple boughs
As happy as the heart is long, I play
And racing heedless, singing like the sea,
Time holds me green forever and a day.
Heaven is home where hares run through the corn,
Where always, on the dot, at ten to three,
The river slows and sleeps, the clock stands still,
And every day there’s honey served for tea.
All flights delayed indefinitely; here
we roam on swirly carpets, raising static.
Brown plastic seats are sticky with spilled beer.
The PA system’s garbled/mute/erratic.
The bookshop? Only Fifty Shades of Grey
v. one Dan Brown. The news stand has the Mail
and nothing else. Glazed in, if we could say
our thoughts they’d sound like wallpaper in braille.
The slumping males are watching laptop porn
or nothing if their batteries are low.
The shuffling females browse the shops and yawn.
The final circle; nowhere else to go.
Warm air, recycled, smells of grease and farts.
There’s muzak, much distorted, and off-key.
Our sum is so much less than our small parts.
Here all flights are delayed, indefinitely.
How cool is Heaven? Where do I begin here?
The nightlife’s hipper than pre-war Berlin here,
Yet wholesome as a cosy country inn here;
I’m suave as Cary Grant or Errol Flynn here;
I’ve got broad shoulders and a dazzling grin here
Plus perfect hair, flat abs and strong, cleft chin here
(We all look like some sexy film star’s twin here);
Nobody hates the colour of your skin here;
Yang enjoys perfect harmony with yin here;
The steaks are thick, yet everyone stays thin here;
Nobody has to lose for me to win here;
We’re all on friendly terms with all our kin here;
No politicians practise crooked spin here;
I never get hung over from the gin here;
None of my favourite vices is a sin here.
I haven’t got a clue how I got in here.
It’s cold. It’s just too bloody cold. I knew
It would be hell of course, but all the same,
The burning lakes, the tottering towers of flame,
The everlasting fires that stick like glue,
The entrails turning on a barbecue,
They somehow seemed implicit in the name,
And yet it’s cold and I am very old.
I lost it all. I could have won. I could
Have won, but I was horribly betrayed
By those I held most close, by those I made,
By those I made who were no bloody good.
I should have seen the beetle in the wood.
I should have known they wouldn’t make the grade.
I am most grievously misunderstood.
I wanted Justice, which is being fair.
I thought that everyone was on the square.
No. 2890: end paper
You are invited to imagine one of the major newspapers has ceased publication and provide a verse lament for it. Email entries of up to 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 18 March. Just to clarify, in last week’s challenge I was asking for an imaginary novel written from the perspective of a female chauvinist.
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