The Oldie

Competitio­n Tessa Castro


IN COMPETITIO­N No 250 you were invited to write a poem called Matches. Mary Hodges’s narrator wondered if an inability to match strides, now she is ‘frail and getting fatter’, could really matter. Leslie Miles missed the Vestas that struck on the sole of your shoe; Tom Marvin saw the flame as ‘Biblical / When that little beast does hatch’. Jane Moth mourned the misery of ‘Sitting in the winter gloom, / Matching socks up in your room’. Commiserat­ions to them and congratula­tions to those printed below, each of whom wins £25, with the bonus prize of The Chambers Dictionary of Great Quotations going to Bill Holloway.

Loved music, jokes, and boating all his life, Mick Morgan did – the import-export man. Before he jumped, he left this in the can: ‘To my sweet, innocent landlubbin­g wife:

Me and Mozart and Mister Maxwell, we all match. I never had Wolfgang’s ear, nor Bob’s wry humour And my life was never dogged by rumour, But, neverthele­ss, the three of us come in a batch –

Mozart, me and Mister Maxwell. All of us clever, We played with notes – black, white and green ones too. And by the time the final demands came through, We hoped to be one step ahead; but we never

Managed – Max, Mozart or me – the money. For all our craft we end up deep in debt. We played – and lost – life’s real game, set And match. Abandoned ship, wife, requiem… Bye, Honey.’ Bill Holloway

Don’t play with them, my mother used to say, No one smoked, the matches simply served To light the open fire and every day My dad would rake the ashes. I observed The misery of clinker on his hands, Already rough from outside work, nails chipped And skin cracked open, fabric plaster bands Would cover up the open wounds. Tight-lipped

He’d get on with his task. He rarely spoke To me at all, but then the silence hung Only pierced when suddenly he’d choke On dust as it flew up. I was too young To realise his hardships and his pain, But matches draw the memories again. Katie Mallett

He wonders. He says as he scratches His head, ‘Just what colour eyes she Has. Not blue and not green but surely A lovely hue. See how it catches The light as she smiles. They’re like patches Of ocean, my wife’s eyes. She sees me, As puzzling, I gaze at her. Slowly She frowns, thinks, ‘What is it he hatches?’ Meanwhile his muse answers his pleas. ‘Eureka! Your eye colour matches,’ He tells her, ‘the mould on stale cheese.’ Dorothy Pope

She screwed up some newspaper kindling Using the local rag, Then set it alight with the last of her matches But before being lost to the flames A name caught her eye There on a page of ‘Dispatches’…

… it can only be him! They were such a good match! Memories return, his laughing brown eyes Looking back having run on ahead, Soft grass, cowslips nodding bouquets, Warm breezes which played With fluffy white clouds overhead…

She holds on to the mantelpiec­e tight, Eyes filling up, seeing such pictures of Jack – Of course she will go, sit where old flames usually sit, Quietly alone at the back. Ted Lane

COMPETITIO­N No 252 I was delighted for once to find an exhibition almost empty, so that I could see the pictures, not people’s backs. A poem, please, called In the Gallery, in any sense. Maximum 16 lines. Entries, by post (The Oldie, Moray House, 23/31 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PA) or e-mail (comps@theoldie. – don’t forget to include your postal address), to ‘Competitio­n No 252’ by 5th March.

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