Blackbox Manifold

Issue 13: Astrid Alben


On Poet’s return, very impressive, Lazarus gave a standing

ovation started to reread or else well can’t think of what

are the beautiful they replace a pelican leírion wet kiss

become someone I have never been in the Hebraic version           

then lose him to a half-life of facts on a mountain where

nothing happens but loneliness too daily to relate.

Poet stared. Lazarus came forth and clapclapclapclapped.

Others said thinking.

In Conversation with David Hockney

What brings you here Poet bellows across mountains

I’m here muah muah kissing muah the air couldn’t leave

is loveness with or without light bellows Poet made for going

the other way watch and now on the right another birch stripped

purple of May. There now stands on its own.

You can place your thumbs forefingers about its neck

touching rarely forms the perfect crowd amorphous

unchanging history our fata morganas written everywhere.

Accidental Drowning

What if you bring up Burma and kho pho phett and I never heard

of his poems before or if I told you his political plight, grievous

and shameful Poet knows doesn't matter as much as it should to me at

all but made me think instead of Mengele - he drowned you know,

with everything almost still in perfect condition: the library

that included works by Goethe, Goebbels, Erich Fromm and

Siegfried Lenz, medical literature about soft tissue rheumatism,

an Olympic souvenir placard, a package of Olla condoms.

Cassette Tape with Beckett Voices

Voices blink like trilobites from underneath Atlas—

curious Poet listens bolshie-eared to correspondence from

the deep. We in-build what is going to bite us even if voices

are monkey business scrabbling across Indian Ocean cappuccino

rings resemble contour lines (idiocy! ticket inspector!) my body

likey the spool back to Paris girlfriends prostitutes the debris

of thinker out louder crackles where there is laughter

rhythm and this is what makes the seabed.

Man on Train with Spirit Level in Yellow Canvas Bag

In snooping daylight

And a stream of incoming texts

Just before Baker Street but still above ground

Man on Train with Spirit Level in Yellow Canvas Bag.

Another ventures: you putting up shelves?

He:       uh– hum –eh-ghum

— A polite guffaw somewhere between snorts and aborts —

Another: (eyebrows prompting the monologue of his nose,            

Eyebrows like Groucho Marx who spun his chorus girl

Across the parquet dancing floor, his aristo tails flapping

Like nothing will ever be forgotten.

Who with every heelturn would collapse away  

Like Yuri Gagarin in 1961 who danced on drunken flowers

 – Crazy, crazy – but he went.

Eyebrows like Frida Kahlo’s in Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace              

and Hummingbird, dense with the pigmented delight of sorrow            

Pouring her love into a humming waterfall

of red and yellow and pink

Or two zanders filching sunlight in the river Ouse               

— Coming together breaking apart —

Undetected in the wafting algae.

Like the hay-scented breeze wafting across a field in Hawkhurst

Where the doll with incurable curls that I lost

Clutches her disintegrated fists in the clay

Like she won’t ever be forgotten –

They all danced into the up ahead

The perfume of their demise surrounding them.

So beautiful! Aboard! Aboard!           

The train grinds to a halt at the platform. Too late!

He and Another are mislaid in the crowd.

Bless Groucho! Bless Frida and bless the river Ouse!

Bless Gagarin and bless all parquet dancing floors!

Bless the spirit level! Bless all Hummingbirds!

Bless the hay-scented air wafting across a field in Hawkhurst!

Bless what happiness is!

Bless the snooping daylight and bless all drunken flowers!

Yes, and bless all drunken flowers!)

Astrid Alben’s most recent collection Ai! Ai! Pianissimo, was published by Arc Publications in 2011. Alben has been described as “a new and original voice in English poetry, serious and uncompromising” (TLS). Her poems, essays, translations and reviews are widely published in journals, magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and her poetry is translated into several languages, including Romanian, Dutch, Slovenian and Chinese. Alben is the editor of three art/science anthologies: Findings on Ice (2007), Findings on Elasticity (2010) and Findings on Light (2015), published by Lars Müller Publications. Her next collection, Plainspeak, an alter-ego-thinker-out-louder-book, will be ready in about a year. Alben is a Royal Society of Arts Fellow and Wellcome Trust Fellow. To hear her poems visit To find out more about her work in art and science visit