Com­pe­ti­tion Tessa Cas­tro


The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

IN COM­PE­TI­TION No 232 you were in­vited to write a poem called Toe­nails. Of the many who took up the chal­lenge, there was a great di­vide be­tween those who thought toe­nails use­less and dis­gust­ing and those who found them rather al­lur­ing.

‘The least poetic thing I know/is found at the end of ev­ery toe,’ de­clared Paul Elmhirst. Ni­cholas Stone at­tempted sin­gu­larly to in­ter­est us in the Toe­nail Cook­book. Martin El­ster sang of the fear­some Deinony­chus, with its ter­ri­ble claws, luck­ily ex­tinct.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to those printed below, each of whom wins £25, with the bonus prize of The Cham­bers Dic­tio­nary of Great Quo­ta­tions go­ing to Jen­nifer Guil­liard for her un­gu­late cel­e­bra­tion.

Lla­mas are proud of their toe­nails. They curl up their lips in dis­dain, Know­ing their feet are pro­tected On rough, rocky roads in the rain. The old campesino wears san­dals, His toe­nails all bro­ken and black. Strong, shiny llama nails clat­ter As they climb an An­dean track. When old lla­mas lay down their bur­dens And curl up their toes in de­feat, Hard­ened black toe­nails like seashells Live on as a mu­si­cal treat. Chul­lus, tied bunches of toe­nails, Per­cus­sion of an­cient Peru. Rat­tle the rhythm of moun­tain winds And dead lla­mas live anew. Jen­nifer Guil­liard

I have to tell you that the hu­man species Has many fea­tures that I find re­volt­ing, Like mu­cus, ear­wax, urine, phlegm and fae­ces, And pu­bic hair that is for­ever moult­ing.

Among those hor­rors, toe­nails have their place, En­crusted with… it’s bet­ter not to ask, But grimly grab the clip­pers, try to face The back­ache caused by this re­pug­nant task.

And when at last the wretched things are pared, I see that blights have spread from toe to heel! What fun­gal mis­eries we might be spared If only nails were made of stain­less steel. Brian All­gar My Lord is snor­ing, over­come with wine, ut­terly at my mercy, and I choose not to be Ju­dith. Not to slice his head from his slumped shoul­ders with a hefty blow.

I will at­tend to his feet, as I promised. Saw off the two tough rinds of his big toes, nib­ble sharp cor­ners off the lit­tle ones and tidy up the weird ones in the mid­dle.

I am not Ju­dith; I am Jael, with choices. I could have taken the meat ther­mome­ter, ham­mered it – just-like-that – into his ear­hole but see, I have done noth­ing of the sort.

I have kept faith, Sis­era. In my fash­ion. I have re­stricted my­self to the scis­sors but I have put aside a lit­tle toe jam to serve, with but­ter, in a lordly dish. Ann Drys­dale

Your prof­fered foot from high chair in the pub! En­grossed in con­ver­sa­tion and the grub, I hadn’t seen your un­em­bar­rassed stare un­til your mother begged me be aware of you, and say, ‘Hello.’ At eight months old you were all word­less can­dour. I was sold! I crossed the nar­row gang­way, met your eyes and felt your hand wrap round my fin­ger, sizes per­fect fit. Next came your three-inch foot as ex­tra greet­ing, plumply new, and put up to my face im­prob­a­bly, com­plete with tini­est of toe­nails, five, en suite, which put the pearls around my neck to shame. And Sun­day lunch has never been the same. Dorothy Pope

COM­PE­TI­TION No 234 I seem to re­mem­ber that when Gor­don Brown, as Prime Min­is­ter, was asked his favourite bis­cuit, he couldn’t think of a re­ply. A poem please called Tak­ing the Bis­cuit. Max­i­mum 16 lines. En­tries, by post (The Oldie, Mo­ray House, 23/31 Great Titch­field Street, Lon­don W1W 7PA) or email (comps@the­oldie. – don’t for­get to in­clude your postal ad­dress), to Com­pe­ti­tion No 234 by 11th Oc­to­ber.

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