Competition Tessa Castro
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. co.uk – don’t forget to include your postal address), to Competition No 234 by 11th October.