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Alistair Noon


Three poems from Earth Records

(Nine Arches Press, forthcoming 2012)

The Seafarer Poet in Newcastle

I had ridden a cloud-horse to that kingdom,
but the gate-guards wouldn’t let me ride home.
My reflection was mine, but the mirror-book
so weathered it might not’ve been my own.

A Friday in early March, around sundown,
and the local women were out
in their bikinis.
All I had till the wheel-beast left for London
was a Guinness and a song-bag of Seamus Heaney’s,

so I boarded the rail-whale to Jarrow
and walked to the sea’s fingertips where I found
enough flotsam to fashion a water-arrow
that would have humbled any burial mound.

It was my quick Kon-Tiki to re-state
a theory whose truth I already knew.
Back the way some of us came, I sailed
on a journey that was less than new.

It was cold in that life-image in March,
and my stomach felt each trough and crest.
It was damp in that wave-steed and I started
to feel cattle galloping in my chest.


Hannah Höch at Schloß Charlottenburg, May 1945

She stood where the Kaisers had perched,
watching the sky go lime and peach.
The fractured cream cupola and bruised yellow wings
looked fit to crumble at the snap of her finger.

Kurt Schwitters strode out of the unfurling trees,
waved, said something in English, then vanished.
A black loco steamed by on the girders behind.
From out of the cabin ballooned an orange eye.

She had walked from the northern suburbs. Times
were hard. A tank was parked at her garden gate.
There were no lemons to make lemonade with.

Onto the iron bridge strolled a figure in silver furs
and a beige bonnet half-hiding its head, all sleek
with green and black feathers, and a fat yellow beak
poking out like a bazooka from a ruin. Webbed hands
pulled out a paper bag and began to fire crumbs
into the misty stillness of the carp pond,
where pale paddlers in striped bathing suits and trunks
flapped and splashed, whooped and hooted
as they hurtled towards that cloudburst.


Memo to Charles Reznikoff in Los Angeles

The trade has changed since the thirties
when you cut those glittering definitions –
I take walks in the virtual data rooms
and call up the knowledge management –

but above this tepee of offices,
the sky's as Biblically blue as the Pacific,
where you failed to sweet-talk the moguls
into your scripts. Nor were your Rhythms

much wanted, which you letterpressed yourself
so your grandmother mightn't cremate them
as she had your grandfather’s, to save them
from the Tsar’s police, a bundle of papers
in the ciphered language of ancestors, fluttering
on the trade winds of genetics and culture.

I'm off to the Land of the Israelites
and busy with the basic questions –
How long have you been here?
Is this the train to Nahariya?
Are you happy in our country?
It will get more complex. I'm doing
it wrong, which I think is right.

On my traffic-lit homeward ride
I see what you saw once back
among the undergrowth of Brooklyn
and the treetops of Manhattan:
a sparrow bustling in a puddle,
a subway severing the street,
roadworks and film shoots, even
an old friend impossible to speak to.




Copyright © Alistair Noon, 2011