Brian Allgar


The Hair of the Heir

My brother Esau is a hairy man,
But that’s no reason why he should inherit
The goats, the wives, the whole damned caravan.
What has the fellow ever done to merit
Such preferential treatment, other than
Emerging first, as furry as a ferret?
The firstborn gets the lot since time began;
It isn’t fair! You’d think at least we’d share it.

But I’ve just rescued from the garbage can
A goatskin body-stocking; when I wear it,
Old sightless Isaac, father of our clan,
Will think I’m Esau—from the smell, he’d swear it.
With antiquated fingers, he will scan
My hirsute form, right down to pubic hair. It
Can hardly fail, for his attention span
Is feebler than a goldfish in mid-air; it
Will be a lucrative investment plan…
Of course, I’d be an idiot to declare it.


Two palinodes

1. Odious Autumn

What was that wretched poem on about?
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”
It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

“Warm days will never cease”—I have to shout
With bitter laughter, mingled with distress.
What was that wretched poem on about?

“Maturing sun”? Forgive me if I doubt
That I have ever seen it shining less.
It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

Torrential rain, no chance of going out;
My garden is a soggy, sodden mess.
What was that wretched poem on about?

Such flooding might be fine if you’re a trout;
For humans, though, it cannot but depress.
It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

And what the hell just bit me on the snout?
A choir of wailing gnats would be my guess.
What was that wretched poem on about?
It’s Autumn, and the weather’s up the spout.

2. Odious Nightingale

My head aches; too much blushful Hippocrene
Has dulled my wits and set my senses reeling.
My eyes are red, my face a sickly green
From all that wine. And as I vomit, kneeling,
In hope that easeful Death may intervene,
I am assaulted by a dreadful squealing:
That wretched Nightingale, although unseen,
Is not unheard; the creature has no feeling!

It screams the livelong day, and half the night,
Tormenting with its pestilential clamor,
A brutal din that gives me no respite
As though my head were pounded by a hammer.
Were it a horse, I’d send it to the knackers’.
Begone, vile bird! Sick, loitering and pale,
Henceforth, I shall foreswear the fruits of Bacchus,
And stick to wholesome drafts of ginger ale.


Where are the shops of yesteryear?

There used to be a butcher’s shop, there used to be a baker’s,
There used to be a florist’s right beside the undertaker’s.
The patient shoppers chatted as they queued to fill their baskets,
But no one cared to linger near the mortuary caskets.

There used to be a grocery that sold delicious gammon;
A fishmonger’s with stands of herring, halibut and salmon;
A sweet shop where the little kids would splurge their pocket money,
And parents bought them once a year a chocolate Easter bunny;

A laundry where the shirts were washed and pressed and folded neatly;
A barbershop that also sold “weekenders” most discreetly;
A dairy shop with cream and new-laid eggs and massive cheeses;
A joke shop selling plastic turds and other jolly wheezes.

Now, every shop is boarded up where customers once flowed;
They’ve all been snaffled by the supermarket down the road.
Only the undertaker’s left to gain his daily bread—
He makes a decent living, though his customers are dead.

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.