Other Poems by:

Alan Britt

GNATS

Now I’m going to tempt my bones
with this Chablis.

So, you just keep on circling
that orange tin jack-o-lantern.

Somehow I’ve a feeling my French companion
won’t go unnoticed by you.

What kind of sensibility 
do you have, anyway,
that you desire to backstroke
on my chilly goblet of solitude
this third week of April?

A celebration?
A birthday of sorts?
One measured in minutes?

Or perhaps it’s just your passionate nature
in general,
your Immanentist lifestyle?

From what I can see
you must possess a Rimbaudian sensibility,
one that causes you to plunge head-first 
into this French wine, diving below her 
deep waist of stopped clocks.

I guess that makes you
more human than I cared to realize.

FOR THE LOST POETS OF NEW ORLEANS

WHO FREQUENT MARDI GRAS
(And for all other Primordial Realists out there.)                                     


You know we’re forever writing poems
about our modern age
enhanced by printing presses, computers
and space age scanners,
but what about the poets,
or near-poets,
who lived for thousands of years
without an outlet
for their complex despair?

You know they existed.

These poets,
or near-poets, who lived
through blood-thirsty monarchies,
cultivating illusions the size of fists 
waving through clouds of locusts
in a 4th Century field of mud and millet.

These poets, or near-poets,
could tell us the truth
starting from prehistory
to Alexander, 
and the Crusades,
and about the genocide
of imagination
that’s existed for so many years.

Trial by Ordeal –-
how unimaginative can you get?

These poets saw it all,
the rape of the Magi and the indolence of kings
leaving the Magi’s tent door
open for magpies to swoop down
from their scientific perches
and devour his succulent entrails,
followed by the systematic 
suppression of women who lived 
as slaves to the slaves of sanctioned Hedonism.

These poets, or near-poets,
deserve a moment
of silence
for their lives without expression,
for their violent melancholy,
as we dip our dented
tin cups
into the outrageous human stream 
flowing tonight down Canal Street
rattling the bourgeois suburbs
of New Orleans.

CELEBRATING GREAT AUNTS

(For Aunt Glenda: 1912-2005)


There’s no clear answer
to this crisis
we affectionately call life.

(Sounds like a picnic.)

So, if you ask,
and you obviously did not,
I’d say that family outings
are always warranted
along life’s troubled journey 
as long as pies
are plentiful
with lemon meringue
swirling the crust
crimped by a Great Aunt,
an Aunt who inspires
50 years of fond memories.

Never mind the coleslaw
that consists of cabbage
and carrots cultivated from a private garden
tilled and composted organically;
it’s all in the pies!

EXPECTATIONS

The woman with ebony eyelashes
presses the elevator
button
as my waist
flows
past her perimeter.

The door closes.

Intimate thoughts
are vaporized
by green numbers
illuminating each floor.

A breath of cloves,
or gingivitis?

But I imagine a leisurely stroll
through moonlit surf
if only
to taste the purple coquinas.

Her toe pounds twice,
calf stiffens
as the elevator oozes to a stop
1,000 stories
above my wildest expectations.

No one enters.

No one departs.

We descend
at a rate faster
than you can imagine,
falling about 10,000 years per second.
At around the third floor
we begin the false stop
so often experienced
on public elevators.

Then the door opens
and we exit like two swans.

               *

Too much attention is paid
to sanctioned marriages.

Not enough
to impulse.

IRONIC FOG

Sky at 12:47 AM,
full moonlight
diffused by fog,
ether through cotton,
like overcast
winter dusk.

Objects emerge –-
yellow leaves
from the final maple,
haloed by porch light;
pine lattice shuffles her deck of cards,
all diamonds;
chimneys like mastheads
roam the fog.

A fire alarm
sounds;
two alarms
assault the night.

Strange how this ironic fog
could ignite a single spark,
much less
a blaze.

Suddenly,
a crow caws
its way
across the yard.

Cars, like waves,
slosh dirty foam
against the curb.

WRITING POEMS

Writing poems seems
bizarre
to the uninitiated,
I’ll admit.

Sitting for hours
in one spot
recalls Wordsworth’s
marvelous patience.

I’ve been soaked
by dripping fog,
shit upon
by insolent jays,
& serenaded 
inside my humid summer, tomato cantina
by dark-eyed crickets,
passionate cicadas,
& a female cardinal’s
distinctive lexicon.

I could’ve been
an abused clerk,
but I chose instead this peculiar night-watchman’s job
that requires me
to record the sleepy hours
that roll
beneath a streetlight’s bruised eyelids.

Life in darkness
stimulates
holy imagination.

I suppose
you could say
that such
lively solitude
is an acquired taste
Otherwise, when you think
about it,
it’s a wonder
we have
as many
unrequited poets as we do.

Consider this.

What if poets
wrote only about their real lives,
lives
caught wriggling 
beneath a chain-link fence
near the burning edge
of a Nazi searchlight?
Lives 
juggling humiliation like chain-saws?
Lives overwhelmed
by the illuminated spots
of love & cruelty?

Come to think of it,
we can barely define
these words love & cruelty,
much less
construct elaborate symbols & myths
around them.

Oh, well.

EVOLUTION OF STARS

(For Aunt Pearl)


Stars
that first inspired alchemy
are out tonight.

In symmetrical
fashion,
barely moments
of light oozing
from the fine hairs
of Vermeer’s brush
disguised as a metaphor
for love.

Our sleight-of-hand universe
tosses a deck
of cards
onto a formica kitchen table.

Great Aunts,
Uncles, Cousins,
Grandparents,
fan their cards
of fate
like the gauze wings
on indigo dragonflies
navigating
the nerve endings
of family bond.

The stars
shed their insect wings;
their wings
twist
& fall
through
centuries
until they form
a language on the
kitchen floor.

Naturally,
in a different universe,
the evolution
of stars
is unique.

But I have a feeling
that even alien Saints
thoroughly enjoy the alchemical light
of their stars,
in their own fashion,
naturally.

POEMS IN PROGRESS

You know, after working over

these poor things,

some wounded, gashed, bleeding,

and holding their sides,

it’s a wonder they trust me 

to approach them at all, 

considering their fragile conditions.

 

But I coax them,

time and time again,

urging them to reveal themselves, 

hibernating in their dark barrels,

knowing that any moment

could be my last.

HERE’S TO WRITING A POEM ON THE 13TH OF EVERY MONTH FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR, BUT KNOWING I’D NEVER REMEMBER ALL THAT…

(For Carl Jung)

 
Taboos are like bongos;

you find the beat

you like the most,

then eventually discard them

in a pawn shop

on Greenmount Avenue,

hoping they’ll materialize

into beautiful rivers

on a Baltimore Street Arab’s ebony face.

 

Taboos were always meant to sprout black pearls

deep in the fertile souls

of humans.

 

All this elaborate masquerading of taboos

typically makes me hungry

and, sometimes, makes my soul

resemble a barracuda 

trolling the dark shifting floor

of our mythical collective unconscious.

TWILIGHT

At first something

creaks

a large branch

behind me…..

then

12,000

crickets with

brass bells

on their hips

suddenly

appear.

CROWS

A herd of crows

circles a large maple tree.

 

Coarse flecks

of pepper

scar

the blue.

 

Stubbles

of discontent.

ONE ANGEL

You would behead

angels

for god?

 

How does

that work, exactly?

 

Would you devote

seventeen

or sixty-seven

years

of your life

for the right

to finally set

your own boundaries,

only to discover

those boundaries

to be headstones

circling the 

edge of darkness?

 

I know one angel

who won’t 

be held back.

 

Is one angel enough?

 

Because I could

find two,

maybe three?

JUNE GARDEN

Yellow udders

sag 

for the squash god.

 

Low

broccoli leaves

resemble

young tobacco plants.

 

Tall tomato vines

relax

against faded stakes

that resemble Medieval canes.

 

Ruby lettuce

crouches in

silent fireworks.

 

Onions & garlic

devour

subterranean light.

 

A rhubarb’s wild elephant ear

dozes in cool humidity;

the entire herd 

grazes in the mist.

 

They all know

I’m a brother.

 

I carry

their scent

wherever I go.

VEGETABLE LOVE

The question is,

do plants

make moral judgments?

 

We know

they’re responsive.

 

They prefer

Mozart over Molly Hatchett,

but Cream

over Souza,

& so forth.

 

A street light

invades our midnight garden,

rubs her silver hips

against hand-guided

tomato vines.

Biography

New bio: ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to broadcast a straight read, 
plus live stream on their Web site of Alan Britt’s poem, "After Spending All Day at the National 
Museum of Art," as part of their Poets on Painters series.  ABC to credit New Letters as original 
publisher…..The Poetry Library (www.poetrymagazines.org.uk) providing a free access digital 
library of 20th & 21st century English poetry magazines with the aim of reaching new audiences 
and preserving the magazines for the future seeks permission to include Alan Britt’s work 
published in Fire in their project. The Poetry Project’s sole patronage by Her Majesty The Queen, 
Elizabeth II.

 
Alan Britt teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University. His recent books are 
Vermilion (2006), Infinite Days (2003), Amnesia Tango (1998) and Bodies of Lightning (1995). 
Essays recently in Clay Palm Review and Arson. Interviews and poetry (selected) recently featured 
in Steaua (Romania), Latino Stuff Review and Poet’s Market 2000. Other poems in Agni, The Bitter 
Oleander, Christian Science Monitor, Confrontation, English Journal, Epoch, Fire (UK), Flint Hills 
Review, Fox Cry Review, Gradiva (Italy), Kansas Quarterly, The Kerf, Magyar Naplo (Hungary), 
Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Midwest Quarterly, New Letters, Pacific Review, Pedrada 
Zurda (Ecuador), Puerto del Sol, Queen’s Quarterly (Canada), Sou’wester, Square Lake, Revista Solar 
(Mexico), plus the anthologies, Fathers: Poems About Fathers (St. Martin’s Press: 1998), 
Weavings 2000: The Maryland Millennial Anthology (Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc., St. Mary’s 
College, MD), and La Adelfa Amarga: Seis Poetas Norteamericanos de Hoy (Ediciones El Santo Oficio, 
Peru, 2003). Recent readings: SUNY at Albany, NY, 2006; Hendrick Hudson Free Library, Montrose, NY, 
2006; Towson University, Towson, MD, 2006.

 

Alan performs poetry workshops for the Maryland State Arts Council. He occasionally publishes the 
international literary journal, Black Moon, from Reisterstown, Maryland, where he lives with his 
wife, daughter, two Bouviers des Flandres and two formerly feral cats.

**Copyright 2007 Alan Britt, all rights reserved Send us your comments on this article
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