Brian Allgar


Why did I laugh?

(The first line is from a sonnet by Keats)


Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell,
Although the guests enjoyed themselves. I think
My diplomatic banquet went quite well:
The friendly talk, the lavish food and drink.

I had invited all my fiercest foes
To make a lasting peace, and they were glad.
His goblet lifted high, their chieftain rose
And made a speech: “We thank thee, noble Vlad,

For ending bitter enmity and strife.”
I bowed and smiled, suppressing secret laughter.
“Dear friends,” I said, “Here’s to a quiet life!”
They cheered, not knowing what was coming after.

I laughed to hear my kindly wisdom hailed.
When midnight struck, my guests were all impaled.


Why did I laugh tonight? No voice, Will Tell?
I warned you beer and archery don’t mix,
But would you listen to me? Would you, hell!
So confident that none could match your tricks:

That backward shot while standing upside-down,
The crossbow firmly clenched between your jaws,
And many more such feats. The archer’s crown,
You told yourself, must rightfully be yours.

To end the show, you used your son instead
Of targets. What a stunt! You’d never missed.
You’d shoot the apple cleanly off his head . . .
By then, of course, you’d got completely pissed.

Befuddled by the booze that you had put
Away, you fired—and shot him in the foot.

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. His work has appeared in The New Statesman, The Oldie, The Spectator, Flash500, Light, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, The Quarterly Review, The Great American Wise Ass Anthology, Measure, The Penguin Book of Limericks, and possibly a few other places that he’s forgotten. He also drinks malt whiskey and writes music, which may explain his fondness for Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.