Bill Greenwell


Echo and Narcissus

Echo was hell-bent on necking Narcissus,
But he spent every decko on watching himself;
I don’t want your kisses!’ he cried. She called, ‘Kisses!’
Both seemed predestined to stay on the shelf:
She’d been condemned to repeat final phrases;
He gave a pool his importunate gazes.

Miffed that he couldn’t embrace his own beauty,
Narcissus decided to sharpen a knife.
The heck with this Echo, the parroting cutie!
His own alter ego would love him for life
If he ended it all. Stab! No chest-thrust was finer.
Echo reprised his last words like a mynah.

Suicidal self-love is a desperate choice,
But Narcissus’s passion’s the kind to devour.
Sad Echo, now merely an answering voice,
Though Narcissus’ blood grew a memorable flower.
It’s perfect for frostbite if turned to a balm,
But a pisspoor reward for obsessive self-harm.

The Fall

Perhaps you’ll hear, upon your floor,
above the neighbors’ plasma screen,
its Dolby sound, its speakers’ roar,
some words, as if you’re sub-marine,

some strange hiatus in their world,
even the sound of conversation,
almost human, their tongues unfurled
(though eyes glued to the TV station)—

“What was that?” “Was what, my dear?”
You’ll strain to catch this through the wall,
the final words you’ll ever hear:
“Perhaps he’s had another fall.”


The grandee with the handlebar, his smoking jacket folded;
The former prima donna with her priceless string of pearls;
The blameless little chambermaid the manager has scolded;
The heiress, shoulders bare, whose hair is full of subtle curls:
By morning, one of these will be discovered in a pool,
Before the Colonel’s kedgeree has had some time to cool.

The duchess with the facial twitch and twin anemic daughters;
The poet with his fat cravat, his eyebrows slightly plucked;
The cracked old actress (masculine, when seen at closer quarters);
The sallow man in tweeds, whose lips look permanently sucked:
By luncheon, one of these will be dispensed with by a bullet
Before the Colonel’s found the bell-pull (or found the time to pull it).

The part-time archaeologist with dirt beneath his fingers;
The bishop with the fish-face, who is slyly reading Marx;
The maitre d. who puffs his cheeks and whistles Charlie Mingus;
The artist with the sketchpad which she’s filled with basking sharks:
By dinner, one will lie garrotted somewhere at the venue
Before the Colonel’s snifter as he’s sifting through the menu.

Before too long the hired sleuths will place all guests in purdah,
And segregate the servants, too – the service will be slow.
A weekend spent away from home can often turn to murder.
Think hard before you book one, and decide that you will go—
At country house hotels folk often turn a trifle vicious.
Beware the Colonel. Look at him. He thinks you are suspicious.

Bill Greenwell is from North East England. After teaching for 40 years, he retired in early 2015 (he was a creative writing lecturer at The Open University). He has published four collections of poetry and parody: Tony Blair Reminds Me Of A Budgie, Spoof, Impossible Objects, and Ringers. He was New Statesman’s weekly poet from 1994 to 2002, and still writes a weekly satirical poem on He’s entered the UK weekly competitions every week since 1978, and is researching the first 10 years of New Statesman’s competition. He also runs the online Poetry Clinic.