Issue 8: Alan Halsey

Idle Time Scans

plateglass plateau

spotlit to split

an absolute alphabet’s

foreign fingers

‘if I’d brought my compass’

but even if we’d seen

a mormoluche or two

off the coast of Ionia

what then?


slave revolts in olden Ataraxia

or that other lost city Eudemonia

happenstop or voicestop

in pretence of anger

‘flinging the cartouche to the ground’

(the word was probably ‘crutch’)

in damned reprehensible

maybe representable domains

whatever this means

‘you’ll call her Cordelia at least’


careless text next carols

careless text next scholars

‘he knew how to trifle with the Muses’

but purgative obstacles were yet

another thing he’d forgotten

to make a list of

in an age agog with lowish expectations

barking up the wrong bast or phloem


I look at the photo then I

can’t remember if I remember

Beulah Spa and the bombed-out

houses around Spa Hill Woods

where a splaying oak from

a Robin Hood book in as I’m

not sure whether when I read

it lately I was reminded

Dick Turpin country

but I was certainly told about

Peter the Hermit

the charcoal burners

and the gibbet which once

stood at Thornton Heath Pond

where they hanged neither Hood

nor Turpin but boys bad as me


flutterfights & warsquawks

of magpies & pigeons

claiming the same spacious

limetree branch

predication & prediction

the same root

what it is

to be idly bedevilled by

or else indebted to

an ideal detail

past pests

buoyant as buyouts

purblind & parboiled

‘at the end of the day

a rabbit is a rabbit’

was that an explanation

or a conclusion?


neither red nor yellow nor purple but

‘the dark leathery colour of time’

preserved in the archaeological record

just as it was

in the living rooms of the 1950s

‘rooted in relation to

their own set of relatives’

that’s something I do remember

Auntie This & Auntie That

the only colourful thing

aunties seemed to have

was a budgie


Is your name Croydon?

Tell us what it is like

to be named Croydon.

What difference does it make

whether it means

Crooked or Crocus Valley?

Tell us what it is like

to jump from the upstairs window

of a burning building.


a coroner found the first Irish case

of death by spontaneous combustion

on the same day it was announced

that certain neutrinos had been

caught exceeding the speed of light

the coincidence of dates is of no significance

although the first if not the second phenomenon

would have been noted by the uncommercial traveller

I happened to be reading that day

how he met ‘a power man on the public Iway’

not a politician but common enough

a century later around South Norwood

or down by the sausage stall at midnight

a tramp everyone believed for reasons

I can’t guess a secret millionaire


‘As two night-birds flit’

‘As a shark and dog-fish wait’ –

Shelley on Sidmouth & Castlereagh

maybe reminds you of some recent double acts –

the sheer ache of their

haste to chasten –


Donna mi priegha

if I’ve ever heard of

the river Wandle

& because she asks me

I do remember

the trickle of a stream

you could see

at Thornton Heath Rec

through the railings.

Now I read that

Admiral Nelson

did his fishing

in the stretch

which flowed through

Lady Hamilton’s garden

she having diverted it

and in his honour

or rather because of

un accidente

ch’é chiamato amore

called it ‘the Nile’.


When to go flying is only to fall over

To repeat what has been said

in the last person singular or plural

resistance follows reassurance

which then reasserts itself

then there is further resistance & so on

As the psalmist says more than once


As soon as the calendar’s a list

of back-to-back Remembrance Days

the illusion of history will be complete


‘In the Great Scheme of Things’

‘A True & Faithful Relation of

What Passed For’

‘One book which is sometimes

referred to as a moveable atlas

had been restored by human beings

page by page’

How distant those days seem.

The chimeras

whether or not they

won that particular war

wrote what nobody would call

an exact account –

& since cameras then offered

a different deception

than ours do

& ‘pathos’ rhymes with ‘photos’

only as ‘luckless’ with ‘knuckles’

& ‘cancel’ with ‘conceal’ –

say they wrote what

they never claimed they foresaw


You find out about reference

when a word such as ‘zeppelin’

conjures the thing up

in your 5-year-old sky. Now

I see it no I didn’t. All

I ever saw was the fragment

of one that crash-landed

near my grandpop’s house

He made a shineless brooch of it

An exhibit now lost

That tells you everything you

need to know about reference


under these 4 umbrellas

there were these 4 poets

one wet August afternoon

walking in Epping Forest

which lays better claim

to Dick Turpin

than Thornton Heath

2 days later

under the same trees

but without umbrellas

there were only 2 poets

picking blackberries

this was just down the road

from High Beach

where the Visitor Centre

records Turpin’s pockmarks

but as for a famouser poet

the sales assistant echoes

his own question

John Who?

Alan Halsey's recent books are Even if only out of (Veer Books), a collection of poems written 2008-10, and In White Writing (Xexoxial Editions), a narrative visual poem or a graphic novella, or both. He co-directs the Sheffield-based antichoir Juxtavoices with Martin Archer.

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