Key Points:

Oh, darn! How distressing. Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse, they jolly well have.

Unlikely as it sounds, the extinguished poet laureate, Mr Jam Hipkins, has fallen in love. Desperately so, in fact, but with the same spectacular lack of success his collection, The Bantemweight Ballads, enjoyed at this year's Montana Chook Awards.

I became aware all was not well on Monday. That's when the bard, gaunt and haggard, suddenly burst in through the French doors - which were, unfortunately, closed at the time.

His shattering entrance so startled me that I completely ruined the piece of scrimshaw I was whittling from a large chunk of ambergris some bloke called Jonah had given me.

"It's awful, it's intolerable, I can't bear it," sobbed the poet, "my life is ruined!"

"Don't tell me you've been censured by the Privileges Committee," I gasped, conscious - as his agent and conduit - that such condemnation could spell disaster.

"On the contrary," he sniffed, plucking shards of glass from his bloodied brow, "they've commissioned me to write an Owed to Winston Peters ... "

"Listen, mate," I interrupted, "if anyone's Owed anything, it's us. Ours is the bill that won't be paid; we're the victims here."

"Victimhood is mine," wailed the laureate, collapsing on the chaise lounge in the pre-Raphaelite manner.

"Even someone as prosaic as you should understand it is love alone which is the measure of our pleasure and our pain."

"Yes!" he continued, unabated, "it is love - not the puerile ponderings of some privileged pack of perfidious politicians - which defines us. Our lives are shaped by it. Unless we have love, we have nothing. That's what matters in this world ... "

At which point he sobbed a sob so wracked and remorseful it would've made a New Zealand First treasurer sound cheerful.

"What you're telling me is you've met a girl," I said. "Not a girl," he protested. "The girl! The only girl in the world. A girl with pomegranate lips and alabaster eyes ... "

"Or words to that effect," I interjected editorially.

"My heart has had its Hadron collision," he continued, ignoring my amendments.

"My atoms have travelled round the circle of hope at the speed of love. Only to be smashed and shattered."

He sighed the kind of sigh you'd normally expect from a man who'd suddenly remembered how big his Tranz Rail holding really was. "Now," gasped the laureate, "now and forever, I am my own black hole."

"Holy mackerel!" I yelled, giving him a playful slap just for the halibut. "Pull yourself together, you daft coot. There's plenty more fish in the sea. You're bound to find someone who can rhyme as well as writhe."

It was then the brainwave struck.

"Better still," I cried exultantly, flourishing my well-thumbed copy of the Harold on Sunday, "turn affairs of the heart into transactions of the the wallet."

"Just buy the love you seek. But from someone who knows her iambic pentameters. Like a hedonistic pedagogue - oxymoron as that is." To prove the point, I showed him an article about an enterprising school ma'am who was offering horizontal biology lessons, shall we say, of an evening.

"Look, there you are," I said. "Even the teachers are on the game."

The howl that followed would have made Allan Ginsberg proud.

"She's the one!!!" roared the laureate. "She's the girl of my dreams. Or was, until she was, as it were, exposed."

"I thought her tuition was mine alone."

"Oh, harden up!" I snapped. "Times have changed. It's all legal nowadays. In a caring society you can sell what you like. You can't police morality. A poet should know that. Have you forgotten that lady policeman who was ... um ... polishing people's truncheons at night?"

"Its the way of the world now. Besides, your teacher friend won't be showing Debbie Does Dargaville to the new entrants - not in the daytime, anyway."

"I feel like the Bawd of Trustees," mumbled the laureate, "the cuckold of customers."

With trembling hand he opened a tear-stained page.

"I've written her a poem," he whispered. "Will it win her back?"

"Read it," I said. And he did.

I love your lacy algebra
You ease my present tense
I regard your pleasure's syntax
As a meagre recompense
For the poetry you've taught me
Writ on scented, satin sheet
In our one-on-one night classes
Where we shared our rhyming feet.
If my woodwork is improving
If, perchance, I top your class
It is you, sweet Cupid's tutor
Who has shown me how to pass
Small wonder, then in Flaxmere
With no teacher of the night
That lonely boys' testosterone
Can fuel a fiercesome fight.
But do not give them homework
Save love's lessons just for me
You are the moon's curriculum
You are my chemistry
If I'm A plus in the boudoir
Then I thank your lesson plan
I went in in short trousers
And I staggered out a man!

"Well, what do you think?" the laureate pleaded. "Will it work?"

"Perhaps," I said sadly.

"But you may have to pay her to listen."