Litter Home Page

 
 
 
 
 Header image
 
Alan Halsey

Nocturne in Greenwich Mean Time

* lizard hazard *
possibly say possible repeatedly ‘sitautated’
rough felt for shedding
in the great storm of schemes & the scream of things
these words may have chaingangs of changelings as side-effects
you may notice that in Malory ‘vigour’ means ‘figure’
but if you constantly dream in Middle English seek medical advice

or a gnomic hermit in a nameless wood
a stopgap stoppage between Mingus Ah Um and Mmm … Ah Yes
while insurgents gather in the locus amoenus
not so much a topos these days as a careworn caravan
moved across country by contrary motives
you must contact me to let her know their time of arrival
a mean feat of interpretation down which a reader

brings Raymond Chandler to mind in a back street of Sheffield one Tuesday afternoon in           
          November
seemingly Poe’s dream within a dream he’d read that morning and had by then forgotten
too busy pricing books for a long-vanished market
he couldn’t decide which silence to assume the air of
either de- or pre-scribed but in any case repeated for the rest of his life
in cowboy colours dumb and climbing down and back and up and back ‘a bit more Northern
          and with ASBOs’
a half-rhyme for asbestos as best as I remember

we’ve been feathering our dinosaurs ever since
complaining about passive smoking as if that’s the worst about being in prison
another reason to distrust impertinent & intermittent diarists
when memory management fails and all your blue-screen numbers come up
a kind of licensed incense lacking incentive
‘as a writer looking in his mirror invokes the muse’
while a hi-speed train tears through the woods at 50,000 pages per second

for a moment they thought it was the Questing Beast and so named it
before news came in from that once-happy star of a gamma-ray burst grammatologists had failed
          to predict
the dragon’s head being absent from the new general catalogue
and the comet Ison which made Icarus’ mistake deleted
a pitiless policy warier than worry & amen to omens
assuaged by a dozen or so bars of the Winterreise
light laughter then

where the noun is ‘cigarette’ and the verb is ‘congregate’
you can try if you like to smoke language at both ends
‘a bottle of mouth to go with it’
what else can you do you’re a little-known poet with a Senior Railcard dozing on the floor of a
          rescheduled Transpennine Express in slo-mo at a quarter to midnight and it’s no use
          pretending it’s the Transsiberian
let’s leave that to René Van Valckenborch who knows an icon for a bygone when he sees one
talking of which Geoffrey Boycott’s on the air tonight in Adelaide and England’s collapsed
          before lunch
there’s a half-rhyme for ‘Cyclops’ if not ‘eclipsed’ in there somewhere I’d’ve harnessed along
          with Childe Harold and the North China Herald half a lifetime ago

I still say Sing or else
not expecting that the flattest of the flattered will quite get it
there are people who’ll buy & eat sprouts on the stalk without seeing the beauty
others unaware of the agenbite of anagram
whereby inwit’s sooner stuffed than npower’s apology for incoherence
distinct symptom of a virus whose every mutation is a bonus
but if there were another Chiczulub impact

evolution could take another shot at the Titan oceans
a new improved version of Prometheus Unbound
pissing his bones away as astronauts do
perhaps adding to the spheres a certain medieval solidity
Kraken & Ligeia Mare disoblige with liquid methane
happily without explanatory mutter
why care unless you’re heading that way that Etna’s closed Catania airport

knowing which wind plays best on an Aeolian harp helps neither harp nor you
just remember that every accessory sooner or later requires another and there is no end to
          accessories
and because falsehood always yields at least 10% interest let’s not cancel the last line but one
not forgetting that attribution and attrition point opposite ways although which one’s the
          hooligan and which the hologram’s impossible to tell
as for example in Piero Heliczer’s ‘buckingham palace’ or new dream republic
such things you notice at the end of a day among the catalogues where ‘all show signs of signs’
‘acromegalic locusts’ as Dr Turnbull described gargoyles with clinical precision

which if ghost-story writers could achieve we’d be better entertained
inured as we are to image database file errors
updating our accounts with the bellow link so they’re not short down
‘if it wasn’t for language things’d be okay’
some monkey said that and very lowkey too
misleading as any of the unmatching maps I can’t help but imagine
but thanks for the tip I’ll try removing colour

I can’t think what possessed me
I usually avoid masculine rhyme but generally see
when to be flippant nature’s armature’s mature the signatures of things
so much depending on the saturated newsprint outspilling Tesco’s skips after 3 weeks’ rain
a distinction must be made between a scene and an image
also shadows denser in low sun than the shadowed
illustrating well-known problems in proprioception not advanced by X who says she knows what
          Y thinks of me before changing the subject to a Z I’ve never heard of

‘to call a poem “Night” seems rather mean’ remarked Anselm Hollo before reading ‘La Noche’
yes I’m back among the catalogues with a posse of poets from the 1960s for company
having just been warned by the Austerity Office that exuberance would be misplaced
we’d better leave ‘hot cribbage and whisky’ to the citizens of Boise
even in the 18th century indolence was only or at least in England a virtue of the moneyed &
          therefore as now the unforgiveable vice of the dispossessed
imagine William Shenstone stepping down from the Time Machine into one of those factories
          George Osborne likes to haunt & harass in his Hi Vis waistcoat & squiffy hard hat
no surprise half Sheffield takes to the moors as soon as the stars come out with any promise of
          alien abduction

spectra etc then at 1AM mice the canniest of critters start colonising cupboards and alliteration  
          proves no deterrent
Eternity’s any hour spent looping the loop on the line to TalkTalk
it doesn’t take so much as raising to use up a voice
and less than a night to track circularities in any dictionary
so you shouldn’t be startled when Old Adam the Carrion Crow turns up in The Childermass p.109
that’s one of those places where dizziness cannot be distinguished from its denizens
words so shaken about that ‘injured red unicorns scorn’ offers a new test for Deep Grammar the
          evening after Noam Chomsky was interviewed but for political reasons on Channel 4 News

because it’s the centenary & we’re told not to doubt but Wyndham Lewis recollected F.M.Ford
          in August 1914 saying ‘it has always been Liberals who have gone to war’ and it was only
          the other day that Mr Blair was praising at his funeral General Sharon
anyone must hope that time-bombs whether ticking or already exploded will soon be extinct
but not before the heir to the dynasty tries once again & not without cause to shift the blame
          from the House of Habsburg
we’re in for a year of this stuff & look how I’ve taken the bait I must be the silliest of fish please
          now you’ve hooked me throw me back in the lake as good fishermen do
although re 1914 & specifically ‘the men of’ here’s Lewis again having accidentally but presciently
          rhymed ‘biographies’ with ‘bughouse’ in 1937 ‘We are the first men of a Future that has
          not materialised’
while in the present future the spacecraft Rosetta’s due to wake tomorrow & prepare to harpoon
          Comet 67P ready for a trip round our unexpectedly slumbering if not entirely spotless
          sun
which could end in a disastrous typo where sour darts sit or a Distorts’R’Us when the aforesaid
          hi-speed trains have finally connected all shopping selfappointed chainlinked centres to
          each other

you see I can’t not take a dead magpie on our doorstep personally
therefore it’s not fit for simile
compared to many of which in the matter of honesty IMF forecasts would seem universal truths
          objectively determined
probably because a notion simple as ‘goods’ is defined by circuitous tautology via ‘commodities’
          or ‘exchangeable units of economic wealth’ where ‘wealth’ is ‘goods and services with
          monetary value’
permitting equations such as 1 root filling + 1 gold crown + 1 extraction = 2 rare Ian H. Finlay
          screenprints
it’s not always so easy to put things into words
words being less than perfect containers

they should be codenamed ‘condemned’
in remembrance of those soldiers who prepared for the Great War by re-reading the Iliad
          regardless that Britannia though coined in the image of the prettiest girl in the world Mistress
          Frances Stuart was as casus belli no Helen
but
[                                                         ]
a line’s silence i.m. Nigel Jenkins poet & companionable toper if that night we drank our way
          through the Galloping Dog cellar was anything to go by
Pete Hodgkiss performing for our ears only the pomposities of Clayton Eshleman

perhaps it’s best to remember the hilarities since things do go by
I read only this evening that I lit this cigarette because of my Neanderthal ancestry and I’m not
          sure whether cigarettes or Neanderthals are the 21st century’s top bugbears but
some things you read no one will believe when you tell them
even though as a precaution you’ve removed all the adverbs
and considered that the Iliad’s self-proclaimedly a record of what happens when a big bully sulks
          and that this does have certain applications
the extent of which may be compared to the recent observation that rats in the absence of
          competing species increase in size and so at the current rate of megafaunal extinctions
          have been predicted to outstrip not only cats but sheep whose sacrifice believers promise  
          will transport us to the Athena Nebula or with one more mouse-click the Hades Nexus
          where I expect we’ll meet the ghost of Wyndham Lewis and a gang of doomed youth led
          by Marshall McLuhan
a gang I once belonged to but my membership lapsed

there’s still nonetheless a cabinet of bailiffs to massage the message
in fact they’re promising a Sacrifice tonight
in their own words ‘a wall of sacrificial concrete’ they’ll offer to the sea praying climate change
          will spare that loveliest of train rides along the red coast of Devon via Dawlish
although to judge by Homer we mortals have somewhat lost the knack of calling up goddesses
          and gods or else they decided long ago we’re more trouble than we’re worth
that’s a song you could sing to the tune of ‘My password is invalid’ when it’s the one you were
          given 3 minutes ago
a good soldier should lob those asterisks as far as he can into Nomansland before they go off
‘Call me ASAP / We need to talk’ says the Patriot Survival Plan

mail headed Navy Seal Tactic Keeps You Safe In A Disaster
although it probably won’t save you from the monotheists
and a flood still prompts Churchillian allusions perhaps because we’ll soon have new beaches etc
if not an ark as round as the prototype from Babylon
equipped with artillery to aim at the rats who work for the rat under orders from the rat ratified
          by the rat who underwrote the insurance that by ratiocination ratted on the ratrun a rat
          built
ref. clause 39.3(iiiG) of your updated policy
ah if only to navigate were but to imagine but

then farewell digression
all dreams would be as real as De Quincey’s
and it’s likely enough that crocodiles will outtough the rats and inherit the earth
while as for elephants China will soon have to settle for ivory-lite but thanks for the memory
I know I’ll be adding to the CO2 when I’m driving about in Wales tomorrow but I’ll think as if it
          helps of Thomas Hood
not having a satnav to tell us when we’re approaching the birthplace of Dafydd ap Gwilym
which our Virgil assures us is ‘a mound of mouldy boulders’ and it can’t possibly compare with
          Borth’s petrified forest

if you’re a survivor you’ll revisit certain places every 20 or so years
a clumsy old ghost out to catch himself haunting his once self
adding farfetched footnotes to familiar headlands
the mountains of Cantref Gwaelod translated into modern anguish
the nearest we’ll get to a lingua franca without further advancement of benevolent knowledge
‘your order for the order of things confirmed in good order’
‘There are too many Cambridges between you / and the love of your life // poetry’ wrote Barry
          the Ranter in his Lucifer mask

it’s not the Sirens’ song but their silence Kafka knew was fatal
but William Etty felt ‘it was something to be William Etty’ only after he’d painted The Sirens and
          Ulysses which Constable retitled ‘bumboats’ or and why not ‘bumboast’ a slippage from
          ‘bombast’ which more lately fuelled Boom’n’Bust
so here’s npower.com/bigplans announcing good news at npower.com/getstarted
treat everyone as children and that’s what they’ll remain but I’ve already said enough about the
          prophecies of W.Lewis
if I can’t find brass tacks at That Was Easy I’ll pop round to Every Little Helps
forgetting if I can Dr Kaku’s promise to video my dreams

although the one where Kaku meets Kafka & the Questing Beast’s an Oscar contender
note the incidental montage of Lizzie the elephant drafted into service at Albion Works during
          the 1916 Sheffield carthorse shortage
the dreamer is also indebted to Mr Ruskin of Totley for the use of his snakepit
and to Mr Carpenter of Millthorpe for his lines running over from the cup of Walt Whitman
so much for local reference but some things do need putting in their place
the Duke of Wellington thought any kind of railway ‘would encourage the lower classes to move
          about needlessly’ while the Lakeland Special had the Cambridge poet William
          Wordsworth a-splutter
at least they were spared the car which driving about in Wales at 36mph incurs a fixed penalty
          for a mixed blessing

may the Spectre of Dafydd let his mephitic force of fierce metaphor loose on G.R.Wort the
          Officer in Charge of the Camera Unit
some pretty fireworks to divert us from the realtime reconstruction of the outbreak of with a
          sudden deviation the war in the Crimea
we must be grateful for the reassuring statement from Cicero Capital ‘a financial advisory
          boutique’ with a Black Sea line in ‘mezzanine and hybrid debt instruments’
in other words boys who’ll keep the rouble out of trouble even in the event of a DDoS attack
          which in case you didn’t know is a distributed denial of service
not the deadheads who in army-surplus camouflage have restored Balaclava’s balaclavas but my
          oh my that such things happen in the season of pink hellebore
coupled in a cummings of a spring with 700 just-Keplered planets
ces frayeurs nocturnes without answering aubade

I lifted that from Walter Pater who lifted it from Rousseau’s Confessions
it’s what they call a loadtheft hotspot on the southbound A1
or in corporate circles vicious as they come a consolidation
‘no things but in ideas’ and so we finally arrive in Plato’s Republic
‘posh bananas’ and prices in inverse proportion to the nosh not piled on your plate
with a £10 voucher off your next shop to confirm you’ve been robbed
so thank you Mersea with your evident pun and sunstruck sandshine

your sea-fences a parade of raghead stick-soldiers
not Colchester squaddies snarlier in roadrage than the button-toothed croc who only recently
          surfaced in De Quincey’s cretaceous nightmares
I see how the Hell was reinforced in Helmand but as for the ‘man’ ask Help For Heroes and if
          the ‘d’ isn’t for ‘died’ perhaps it’s just the last letter in ‘Iliad’
that’ll do for that now the frogs are happily clinched on our doorstep and hopping off two as
          one
they’ll mostly spawn food for newts but sentiment aside
there’s no better ramble than the cemetery route to collect the prescription which keeps me out
          of it a little while longer
Sheffield was not to be outmarbled in mausolea in the early years of what I’m still learning to call
          the last century

but an obelisk course of predeceased sons makes awkward landfill
sports jolly but with passing relief
Momus had Rameau’s frogs echo ‘Quoi? Quoi?’
which I’d reckon more like a nightwood of nervy rooks
a question unanswered about some tale that can’t be told before dinner and is forgotten after
or else the clack & clatter of post-Budget debates
the same night it was revealed that one questing beast was a burly sort of prehistoric ostrich
          familiarly known as the Chicken from Hell

discovered several years ago but ‘scientists work in “deep time”’
answering doubt as to dinodiversity just before the Chiczulub hit
by which token it’s the other day that Tethys shrank into the Caspian
and less than a minute since Virtue (here’s Swinburne defending ‘Faustine’) became ‘a rank and
          rapid growth, barren of blossom and rotten of root’
to the point that it died and was replanted as Fitness & Health
we’re told ev’ry morning there’s more we must in correct rhyme deplore
you understand my liking for a nocturne

unstrung strangely in an unsung gallery
imprecise as a hint if not a promise of backwinter
equinoctial blues coming down in polyphonic hail
if there’s a trick it’s to apportion apparitions
I can’t say I hadn’t foreseen the last week of GMT would give me grief
enough’s possibly enough
whether or not * lizard hazard * ’s still a puzzle

25/10/13 – 29/3/14

 
Copyright © Alan Halsey, 2014.