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To mark LUPO’s fortieth issue you were asked for your thoughts on any aspect of the number in relation to people, anniversaries, or dates. Most entrants took the ‘human milestone’ aspect as their theme.

A heartfelt entry for this somewhat sensitive topic, even if forty is supposed to be the new thirty these days, but there were also one or two ingenious interpretations of the rubric, such as Brian Allgar’s piece on classmates named after the shipping forecast’s sea areas with its solitary mention of the decade of The Forties. Susanna Clayson’s 40 Years Ago noted among other things that we smoked pot then, used killer weed, now we plant pots, use weed killer and instead of Find a new hip joint, get a new hip joint, while for Sally Cook When forty up and curls your spine/There’s no more Be My Valentine/For if at forty you fall short/You might as well be nature morte.

Some of the ten or so rhymes with the key word itself were given a good airing, as were those for the number immediately preceding it. The pluses more or less balanced the minuses, with Peter Goulding’s ingenious twist on the figure defying classification.

With thanks to all those who took part, commiserations to the near-missers and compliments to the winners, here in no particular order are the results of the December competition.

Peter Fereday: Over 39

I write about a certain age that’s over thirty-nine.
It strikes fear in the hearts of men (I know it did in mine!)
One minute you’re a youngster that’s maturing like fine wine,
Then suddenly you’ve reached that age, and mouldered on the vine!

They say it’s just a number and that everything is fine,
But something in your head suggests they’re spinning you a line,
And as the day comes round you feel a weakening of the spine.
So shed a tear − your birthday’s here. You’re over thirty-nine!

                           ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘   

Susan McLean: Gloria Steinem, On Being Told 'You Don’t Look 40'

'This is what 40 looks like −
we’ve been lying so long, who would know?'
A surgeon may turn back our faces,
but the clock in the bones doesn’t slow.
Why deny our experience? Own it.
We’re not Beaujolais; we’re Bordeaux.

                           ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘      

 David Galef: To a Friend Facing the Big Four-Oh

Women still look sporty
When they turn forty.
Men are yet gay blades
After reaching four decades.
One shouldn't feel sore
About attaining two score.
Of course, this isn’t your problem or mine,
Still holding the line at thirty-nine.  

                             ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘                                      

D. A. Prince : Monorhyme At A Milestone

The Birthday loomed, and so he thought he
should celebrate with something sporty −
perhaps a mountaineering sortie,
a yomp on ground that’s rough and warty,
despite being slower than a tortie
with legs that got him nicknamed ‘Shorty’.

So, not a good idea. But ought he
try something else − an astronaut? He
would need more technical support. He
could learn to ride on something snorty
and if the horse world proved too haughty
keep failure secret . . ? Over-wrought, he
felt it was rotten, being 40.    

                             ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘          

Brian Allgar: Forty Plus

At twenty, I was lithe and supple,
Amorously fit and sporty;
Never missed a chance to couple,
Pitying old men of forty.

In my thirties, doubts were growing;
Still lasciviously naughty,
Yet I felt that I was slowing –
Sex, I feared, would end at forty.

With that dreaded age arriving,
Though I had some trouble bending,
I pursued arthritic swiving;
Forty wasn’t quite the ending.

Now I’m almost seventy-five,
Grey and grumpy, weak and warty,
Glad, of course, to be alive,
But wishing I could still be forty.

                             ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘  

Mae Scanlan: It's All Relative

Forty is a force with which one reckons;
Let me offer solace as it beckons:
Forty heavy marbles dropped on tin
Would likely make a most unpleasant din,
But forty years? It hardly makes a sound;
It merely means a life that's been around.
Forty shots of bourbon or of gin
Would surely do the hapless drinker in,
But forty years of age is just a marker;
Life is getting better – it's not darker.
Forty roaches on the kitchen floor
Would cause disgust, or maybe something more,
But forty years upon this earth, by gum,
Is not a lot, you see, but only SOME.
Remember, though it's nothing to be sneezed at,
The big Four-Oh is one you should be pleased at.

                            ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘ 

Liza McAlister Williams: Almost Forty

. . . and just as I’m beginning to feel sporty
it dawns on me that soon I will be forty;
somehow that sounds much more than thirty-nine.

I’ve learned a lot, but knew much more at thirty –
the glass half-full, the looking glass half-dirty –
and thou, my overflowing cup of wine,

are looking more than twice as old as twenty.
So by this math, we must be ageing plenty,
although I feel – I think I feel – just fine.

                          ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘     

Peter Goulding: Forty Up

Oh, not in any small way
did the verdant hills of Galway
entrance us with their tricks of light and shade.
The strong display of greenery
upon the vibrant scenery
evoked a cliché that would never fade.

But the movement up each hummock
started off my Vegan stomach,
rolling round with lentil, pea and bean.
The ensuing travel sickness
was projected with due quickness
in a complementing forty shades of green.

                        ◘     ◘     ◘    ◘     ◘     

John Cooper: Forty

It’s just the number between thirty-nine and forty-one.
So nothing to really see here,
Time to move on!

Two red camellia blooms