In Competition No. 3194, a nod to Keats and Tony Harrison, you were invited to write a poem about a poet and a piece of fruit. It was a palmary entry, so I’m making space for an extra winner. Hats off, all round, and £20 each to those printed below.
On Wenlock Edge you stand distraught,
Your brow compressed, your features taut,
And weep to contemplate the fate
Of creatures in a fallen state.
To you the lover’s solemn vow
Is frail as blossoms on the bough,
While tunes that stir the patriot’s blood
Leave young men perished in the mud.
Because your verses tip the scale
Unevenly to hopes that fail
Or ruined dreams, may I uplift
Your sad heart with a special gift?
Accept, to balance your purview,
This bowl of cherries just for you,
As consolation for mankind
When mortal matters touch the mind.
Have an avocado, Henry,
From Aisle Twenty-Two in Fresco,
In a tray of sculpted cardboard
Double-wrapped in sturdy plastic
(Though its alligator casing
Might withstand a bolt of lightning
That the Shawnees’ Animikii,
Animikii, Thunder Spirit,
Sends across the sacred mountains),
Ready for your great consumption
Possibly with prawns within it,
Fresco prawns kept fresh by freezer,
Ready stripped of their intestine,
Do not eat the black vein, Henry,
Whip up mayonnaise and ketchup,
Dear-oh-dear, your pear’s rock solid.
If we give poor Tom a peach,
Will he eat it on the beach?
Will he rub against the panes?
Will he eat it by the drains?
Will he eat it from a plate?
Will he murder and create?
Will a juicy drupe taste sweet
In a half-deserted street?
Can a fur-skinned fruit reverse
What disturbs the universe,
Be it patients etherised
Or decisions re-revised?
Will he weep and fast or eat it?
Will he find a face to meet it?
Shall we seek him on the beach?
Shall we tempt him with a peach?
A small shop window caught my eye today,
Bright fruits of every colour on display,
A harvest hymn of hues, all gathered in,
As tempting as an evening lime and gin;
Yet, even though I could have fancied each
And every one, my favourite was the peach
Which made me think of you — the gentle way
You’d feel its felt-like flesh and then survey
Each detail of its pink, late summer haze
And call to mind your sunlit Surrey days.
Then, savouring that first delicious bite,
How glad you’d be and sad you’d be, delight
Tinged with regret, for though both sweet and tart
Its juice might taste, a stone lies at its heart.
Your fruit brought joy but touched on sorrow too,
Just like this peach, the essence, John, of you.
As if a shaggy Egg — could hold
A Galaxy of Green —
With starburst rays — not liquid Gold —
And small black seeds — between —
Exotic — as a Persian Rug
From distant Samarkand —
This pocket Eden nestles — snug
And homely — in my Hand —
Just as the Skylark’s drab outside
Holds Arias — but furled —
Its burlap Coat — conspires to hide
a slippery — Emerald World —
That has the taste — Temptation has —
As Tart — and Sweet — as sin —
Denouncing my indulgence — as
It dribbles down — my Chin —
‘I have heard, Father Lewis,’ began his young guest,
‘That, living immured in your cloisters,
Your meals are increasingly dull to ingest,
And you yearn for some fruit with your oysters.
Although you have tried them with pineapple pickle,
Your appetite, sadly, has faded.
I’ve come to suggest a receipt that may tickle
A palate that’s thoroughly jaded.
Here’s a platter of molluscs: there’s cuttlefish, clam,
Abalone and mussel and scallop,
Which go very well with my gooseberry jam —
Pray allow me to give you a dollop.’
Might you consider, Milton, how you could
Be brightening your life, though light’s denied,
To taste a fruit that’s flavoursome and good,
And Soil Association certified.
To feel its firm exterior, and soon
To pierce the skin and reach the flesh laid bare
Intense and dark, amid the blaze of noon,
For, though you see it not, you’re yet aware.
Upon your lips the fragrant juice might stay;
Perhaps, unnoticed, linger on your chin —
The stone, unyielding, may be cast away.
You fondly ask for more; it is no sin,
The humble cherry, offering its treasure
Can serve its Maker, giving blameless pleasure.
No. 3197: in memoriam
You are invited to supply a poem to mark the death of Prince Philip. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 28 April.
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