Magazine article The Spectator

Lost

Magazine article The Spectator

Lost

Article excerpt

In Competition No. 2633 you were invited to submit a poem lamenting the loss of a small but important object.

As I dart around like a headless chicken attempting to track down the latest small but seemingly crucial missing item, the words of 'One Art', Elizabeth Bishop's powerfully understated villanelle, ring in my ears:

The art of losing isn't hard to master so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster, Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn't hard to master. . .

These flurries of panic seem to punctuate my day with increasing regularity as time passes but to judge by your entries I am not alone. Keys, contact lenses, remote control and glasses (they're on your head! ) all conspire to absent themselves at the most inconvenient moment on a maddeningly regular basis.

Appreciative nods to Jayne Osborn, Shirley Curran, Josephine Boyle, Martin Woodhead, Roger Theobald and P.C.

Parrish. The winners, printed below, get £25 each; D.A. Prince gets £30.

Each time, I swear, each time I'll keep it safe and somewhere labelled, obvious: a jar, perhaps, or tin, then the elusive waif can't disappear (again) or wander far.

WD40's even found its way into a poem: U.A. Fanthorpe's lines of maintenance, and love. She didn't say the wayward probe had got its own designs.

Somewhere, invisible, the scarlet wands from every tin gang up together, free from oiling, being useful; cheery fronds that could have solved so much. But not for me.

The locks stay stuck, the secateurs stay stiff;

the gearing on the old clock's lost the chime.

So, out to buy another tin. And if I keep the wand safe, is this the last time?

D.A. Prince I sought it up the stairs and down the drain, I sought it in the pans and in the pots, I searched the house from top to toe again, I wrung my hands and tied my hair in knots;

A hundred times I scanned the scattered rugs, Cleared out the cupboards, swept the shelving clean, Felt behind dishes and upended mugs:

The blasted thing was nowhere to be seen. . .

O incapacitating blow of fate!

O loss so disproportionate to size!

Unnerved my glasses hang disconsolate.

Samson regained his strength without his eyes, But Samson surely never read a book - He had more ostentatious things to do;

Yet I could tear down temples as I look For that despectacled and vital screw. …

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