Spectator competition winners: In memoriam Geronimo the alpaca

11 September 2021

9:00 AM

11 September 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3215, you were -invited to supply a poem about Geronimo the alpaca. The camelid’s fate was finally settled just the day before the closing date for this challenge, and your entries have an added poignancy now that we know which way the dice rolled for poor old Geronimo.

I admired Gerald Kirkpatrick’s touching clerihew and Chris O’Carroll’s Ogden Nash-inflected submission. Elsewhere, amid echoes of Manley Hopkins and Milton, was a nice spin on Gray’s ‘Elegy’ courtesy of Max Ross along with impressive contributions from J.C.H. Mounsey, Mike Morrison and Duncan Forbes.

The winning entries, printed below, earn their authors £25.

They’re all leaning out from the Golden Bar,
And scanning the Stairway to Heaven,
The martyrs are hymning and stoups are a’brimming
With innocent tides from the Severn:
There’s St Joan with her pyre, St Bernard the Friar,
John Foxe with his quill and his tome,
For en route’s a recruit, who is woolly and cute,
And they’re waiting to welcome him home

There are serfs that were breadless, and kings that are headless,
And saints who continue to bleed,
Preachers garrotted, and badger cubs slotted
’Cos that was what DEFRA decreed;
The nation is grieving (‘they should have reprieved him!’),
And Geronimophiles are in spasms.
But beyond the neurosis, it’s tuberculosis
With innocent blood on its plasms.
Nick Syrett

TB or not TB? That is the question.
Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes.
It could be croup; it could be indigestion,
But now it seems they’re plotting your demise.

To live or die, O brave All-Black alpaca —
Courageous son of proud Aotearoa?
For you we dance the ancient, noble Haka:
No Ka Mate for you but loud Ka ora!

You were not born for death, immortal llama!
Tuberculosis? You’d have croaked by now.
Oh! One more test shall end this dreadful drama!
Bovine TB? You’re nowhere near a cow!

And spare a thought for plucky Helen Macca,
Surely an inspiration to us all.
She’ll never crack, she’ll back her black alpaca:
She’ll never put you up against the wall.
David Silverman

When I consider how your life was spent
Cropping grass and causing no offence,
Living as you should, where is the sense
In cutting your days short without consent
From those who care for you? Is their dissent
Worth nothing in a world where rigid rules
Demand that you must die? Are men such fools
That they have no discretion? To relent
Would cause no harm at all. Geronimo
I weep for you as you await your fate,
Dignified and tall, your soulful eyes
Looking at the world as if you know
What lies beyond your friendly paddock gate.
If only human beings were as wise.
Katie Mallett

Here’s cud in your eye. I’m alpaca,
With a brave Amerindian name:
I’m neither a swot nor a slacker,
But I work for you all, just the same —

You can pet me or stroke me or fleece me
As long as you don’t feel my head –
I hear Defra has plans to decease me,
But I’m no use to anyone dead.

You could say that I offer you karma,
A woolly sensation, a lull,
But be warned, I am no Dalai Llama —
I will screech if you’re coming to cull.

I was worshipped by every Inca
For my yarn, which is soft as a feather —
George Eustice, you’re not a deep thinker
And have no moral fibre whatever.
Bill Greenwell

Kiwi alpaca! Trace Kontiki’s wake
against the north Pacific’s westward flood;
climb to the breathless crater where the lake
laps at the Emperor Pachakutiq’s stud.
There were your fathers bred — the quipu knots
preserve the tangled archive of your blood,
and there the hostage Chanka children spun
your wool into the worsted of the gods.

Smallpox killed them. We will kill you too.
Your lunar sacrifices are undone,
and tourists rule the seat at Machu Picchu
where Atahualpa hunted with the sun.
You fled the horses to the Altiplano
but Spanish steel becomes an English gun,
and, for extinguished Inca culture, you
must stand memorial, Geronimo.
Nick MacKinnon

Because I am a cow
I’m moved to wonder how
a single camelid
can leave this world, amid
a frenzy in the press
and a nation in distress.
There’ll be a place in heaven
for more than twenty seven
thousand tested cattle
who sadly lost the battle:
I’m pretty sure you’ll find
that no one ever signed
a grand, world-wide petition
to plead for a remission,
which makes me ruminate
on a bovine’s unsung fate.
Sylvia Fairley

No. 3218: cooking the books

You are invited to submit a recipe as it might have been written by the author of your choice (maximum 150 words). Please email entries to by midday on 22 September.

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