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Needs Must

I heard him from the other room,
apologising. He was saying, 'Baby,
even Moses got excited
when he saw the promised land.'

If I wasn't so preoccupied
I'd chuckle. As it is I'm writing this poem
and to make sure I get in a rhyme
for Marie Antoinette

I've made a note of it. Likewise
the part where I compare adolescence
to a dull essence. My work for today?
How to be a Difficult Poet without Boring You.

I intend to go right to the edge of the map
but not fall off, to be beguiling
in an awkward way, like a pretty girl
with a cough. Will that be OK?

Downstairs, in Conference Suite B,
someone is explaining he's conscious of time
so he's going to be brief.
I think I should ignore that.

I think you should too
because I needs must mention the girl again.
She's sitting up in bed now with nothing on
her mind, watching TV and weeping.

From a Battlefield
(at the site of the battle of East Stoke, 1487)

Rain the colour of blades, falling on water,
the dull finish of old metal. Water
collecting in the heart of England,
a country like a wet suburban garden
full of broken crockery, fragments of bone.

Someone exercising a dog called Harry,
a dog from a long dynasty
of dogs called Harry, the chink of a loosened choke-chain,
the clank of blade on basinet.
Harry rooting in gutters, sniffing in ditches.

A vole skedaddles along a slippery bank.
Walking in England, quietly forgetting
ranks of men at arms, their fires at night,
what they had to eat,
the muddy meaning of fields

strewn with remnants of heraldry,
one afternoon, one rainy afternoon.
The usual battlefield topography, a wood,
an incline, an uneven plain. A car parked
by the roadside, a couple of people

reading a map, pointing, then changing their minds.
A crow flies over the landscape
where something once happened. This could be
the crux, the hub, the centre.
Somewhere in England.

C.J. Allen was born in Leeds and now lives in Nottingham. He is reviews editor of Staple, and has published two previous collections, 'The Art of Being Late for Work' (1994), and 'Elfshot' (1997).

C.J. Allenís witty and urbane poetry has learnt from the New York school, and has allied that relaxed manner with an English sensibility to create a distinctive style, at once serious and playful, and capable of encompassing a wide range of form and register.

Read the extract below:

How Copenhagen Ended
C.J. Allen
ISBN: 0-9537634-8-X
£3.50/$7.00  Out of print