Brian Allgar, although immutably English, has lived in Paris since 1982. He
started entering Spectator and New Statesman competitions in
1967, but took a 35-year break, finally re-emerging in 2011 as a kind of Rip Van
Winkle of the literary competition world. He also drinks malt whisky and writes
music, which may explain his fondness for Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.
Crisis of Faith
I used to think that I was pretty hot;
Six days to make a universe? High-five!
With stars and planets, galaxies, the lot,
And all the creepy-crawly things alive:
Bacteria, amoebae, dinosaurs,
Then mammals, then ... and so on down the line.
I worked like hell to finish all my chores,
And when I looked around, it all seemed fine.
… Until I started doubting what I’d done:
Inventing syphilis and leprosy,
Creating cancer—was it just for fun?
Increasingly, I don’t believe in Me.
So much that’s bad, so many chances missed—
Today, I’m just another atheist.
If you can ...
If you can make her laugh, that’s half the battle,
Especially if she’s married to a bore;
If you can make her glad to be your chattel,
Yet treat her like a lady, not a whore;
If you can undo bra-straps single-handed
While murmuring enticements in her ear;
If you can make her think you’re being candid
When telling her just what she wants to hear;
If you, my friend, can easily persuade her
To sample things she’s never tried before,
Or if she sighs with pleasure when you’ve laid her,
And smiles as you sneak out by the back door;
If you can tolerate her endless prattle,
(And never tell her “Darling, get a life”),
Her gossip and her foolish tittle-tattle—
Then you’re the bastard who seduced my wife!
I’ve been the victim of a chronoclasm:
Displaced in time, I’m living in the past,
And I’ve just seen, with a gut-wrenching spasm,
Someone I know. I stare at him, aghast.
He’s got my face, my body, my expression,
My house, my car, he’s sleeping with my wife;
He’s got my job, my sexual obsession,
My mistresses, my cash, my whole damned life.
Enraged, I watch my lovely wife caress him—
It feels like blatant infidelity—
Then langorously, teasingly undress him ...
I’d wait for him, concealed behind a tree,
And shoot the little bastard, dispossess him—
But if I did, what would become of me?
The oysters’ revenge
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Prepared an oyster-feast.
How well they lunched! They slurped and munched,
They ravened like a beast.
The trick was how to disinter
The oyster from its shell
While living still; it needed skill,
And certain tools as well.
The Carpenter had brought his kit;
They had no time to waste.
A chisel-twist, a turn of wrist,
And lemon-juice to taste.
The oysters seemed devoid of wit,
The merest fleshy swirl,
Yet each concealed within its shield
An embryonic pearl.
From time to time, the Walrus heard
A shrimp-like voice, but dafter:
“O Father, spare us! Or prepare us
For the life hereafter.”
A moral qualm within him stirred:
“Do oysters have a soul?”
“Beyond a doubt!” His friend reached out,
And swallowed several whole.
“But do they suffer? Can they think?
Do oysters, when they’re gone,
Know Heaven or Hell?” A silence fell;
The Carpenter chomped on.
They’d brought some cooling wine to drink,
A magnum of the Rhenish.
They quaffed the lot, but failed to spot
Some oysters that were greenish.
They stuffed themselves, quite unashamed,
The weather fine and sunny,
Till, stomach clasped, the Walrus gasped:
“I’m feeling rather funny.”
The Carpenter threw up, and blamed
His fragile constitution.
No more was said; they both dropped dead
From maritime pollution.
The Owl and the Pussycat went to the Judge,
For they sought to obtain a divorce.
“My dear Sir”, said the Owl, “I’ve no wish to be foul,
Though I fear you’ll consider us coarse.
Our plight’s anatomic; my efforts are comic
To exercise conjugal rights.
With our different bits, there is nothing that fits,
And this failure our happiness blights.”
The Pussycat spoke: “He’s a feathery bloke,
Whereas I’m rather furry and feline.
In vain we have tried to get Owly inside,
So to you we are making a beeline.”
Said her husband: “Your honour, I’ve struggled upon her
And hoped she would prove ‘pussycatable’.
It was useless, of course, and we’re seeking divorce
On the grounds that we’re quite incompatible.”
So the Judge set a date to determine their fate:
“I’ll decide at the end of next week.”
But the cat came alone, though she carried a bone
And a handful of feathers and beak.
Said the Judge with a scowl: “Where’s your husband, the Owl?
Are you thinking to mock or deride me?”
Then the Pussy confessed: “I have eaten the rest,
So my husband, at last, is inside me.”
She struggles up the steep and sandy beach,
Her flippers ill-adapted to the task,
But has to find a spot beyond the reach
Of tides, and dig a sand-filled pit to mask
Her eggs. It’s done. Her young must take their chances.
Returning to her own aquatic scene,
She glides and soars, she pirouettes and dances
As though her long ordeal had never been.
The weeks go by. At last, there comes a day
When life begins to stir beneath the sand.
A few small heads appear, bemused and grey,
Then more and more, a vast chelonian band.
The tiny turtles scamper down the beach
Towards the ocean, and their destiny—
But crabs are hungry, sea-birds swoop and screech,
And very few will live to see the sea.
One sunny morning, strolling in my garden,
I stumbled, and my foot crushed something’s head.
"Me dammit!" I exclaimed, “I beg your pardon”,
Looked down, and saw my Serpent lying dead.
Now this was most annoying, for I’d planned
That this poor snake would implement my scheme
To give my little friends a helping hand,
And lead them gently from their childish dream.
The Serpent was supposed to tempt the couple
With luscious fruit that Eden's trees bedecks;
My chosen agent, sinuous and supple,
Would lead the pair to knowledge—and to sex.
Omniscience can have its limitations,
And even Godly schemes may gang agley.
I'd once envisaged teeming populations,
But this, perhaps, was better, in its way.
No Spanish Inquisition, no Crusades,
No slaves, and no Industrial Revolution,
No mining sites that once were leafy glades,
No factory chimneys belching out pollution.
No nation-states, no border wars to settle,
No Holocaust, no tribal genocide,
No Rap, no Hip-Hop, Punk or Heavy Metal,
No hamburgers with coleslaw on the side.
No guns, no bullets, no demented shooters,
Since nothing could be made, except of wood;
No mobile phones (thank Me!) and no computers ...
I looked on all of this, and found it good.
Yet what of those who should have lived hereafter?
No Homer, Shakespeare, Mozart, Botticelli?
No P. G. Wodehouse? (I was fond of laughter,
Though, being God, I didn’t have a belly).
Descendants all, but only if they had ’em.
(No Michelangelo, no Sistine Chapel?)
My mind made up, I called to Eve and Adam:
“I wondered if you’d care to try an apple?”
He had an apple for his lunch,
A Cox’s Orange Pippin.
He ate the core, the pips and all,
But then it gave him gyp in
His stomach. It went on for days;
He thought he’d better nip in
To see the doctor. “Hmm”, said he,
“I think I’ll have to slip in
A probe to see what’s going on.”
He checked the large intestine:
An apple tree was growing there
That birds had built their nest in.
He fixed a chainsaw to the probe
And somehow got it pressed in,
But nothing could dislodge the tree
That pigeons now had messed in.
The branches sprouted through the skin,
And buds began to grow.
The tree grew tall, the patient died.
He’s been embalmed, and so
His family now waits for Spring,
And blossom white as snow—
They’re hoping that the corpse will win
The Chelsea Flower Show.