Issue 25: Alan Halsey

‘On Hold for the Time Being’:
Remarks of Uncertain Consequence
Spring & Summer 2020

A logoclast in lockdown

tries to recover that longlost song

‘Will yowe walke the woods soe wylde’.

What’s he thinking of?

Knocked-out verses & life as

life was in jolly England?

Quickies in the bushes with

one or other siren Boleyn?

The tune’s still played

It’s only the words that walked out

Only to vanish in a mighty forest.

They’ll be as hard to find

these days as a mighty forest

to look for them in. Is the logoclast

imagining some nearby reserve

such as the not so wild Ecclesall Woods?

It would be a comfort to walk there

(the logoclast thinks)

were it not for

(and thinks the subjunctive

is the ideal tense for a lockdown)

a virus not a metonym

for scam or net boast.

Were it not for the posses

armed for moorland vigil

mostly he supposes looking

out for him. Oh him

only scratching down words

he’ll only scratch out

when he’s done singing

for want of a word

these ticked-off nights

to himself of himself

walking woods soe wylde.


riffing with Jack Spicer

under house arrest:

Wherever will I find

an ache or echo or object to

object to as much as to

a stack of obstacles

flaky prophecies I meant

to say flashy prosthetics

voice flagging at half-mask

noises none understand.

Honesty as home decoration

that’s moonwort allowing

white shadows wide berth

in the dust left by those

who saw through time.

I’ll do as I ought

Refuse until the lights come on

Avenge averagely.

I have a month’s supply of sole-

cisms ready to collect

on Dover cliff or if I wish

to skip a few centuries the beach

but there’s a storm just now

a swarm of duckbilled platitudes

pesky to contend with.


Dr Hellbent on hellebore

paid my dreams a visit

warning me to never

disparage disparity.

I wouldn’t call that a vision

‘whereout the world

was extraught’ but what

you get if you read

Behind the State Capitol

alongside Tom Nashe on

the Terrors of the Night.

What it is to ‘confound

in one gallimaufry’.

At 3am Dr Hellbent

listens to the rhythm

of the falling rain

not supposing it’s the

Everly Bros’ comeback

but Greta Garbo’s ghost

crossdressed or just cross.

Pit or pat? Ask Dr H.

Sure as an Easter rose

Doc Hellbent knows.


Lee Harwood had a thing about pangolins

although he told me once he’d only seen

one stuffed in the Brighton museum

he worked in at the time as an attendant.

Whether Marianne Moore met one’s unsure.

She said she took some of her description

from ‘Pangolins’ an article by Robert T. Hart

in Natural History, itself a museum piece.

Perhaps she came face to face with one

in the Bronx Zoo but in that case would

she have called it however amusingly

‘This near artichoke’? Better that she exalts

the pangolin’s part in the ‘splendor

which man in all his vileness cannot

set aside’.

                  Nowadays & any time

you choose you can watch one on youtube

turning his or her head left & right with

what looks like a smile. He or she’s penned

in a Chinese market & up for auction

as either top-price meat or an aphrodisiac

if not the elixir of life. Top-price because

there aren’t so many pangolins around in

the 21st century. On youtube because

they’re possibly carriers of Covid-19.


Further to Sir Thomas Browne’s notes on bubbles

such as ‘They are more lasting & large in

viscous humidities’ & ‘Boyling is literally

nothing butt bubbles’ & ‘Even man is a bubble

if wee take his consideration in his rudiments’

we may pause to reflect that we individual

bubbles when struck by a pandemic are instructed

to associate with no more than five other

bubbles in a catchily defined collective bubble.

Further to which we may worry we’ll be caught

in Russell’s Paradox again if we question whether

a bubble of six bubbles constitutes a set of bubbles

belonging to itself or not. But that’s a bubble

this bubble prefers not to bubble up with.


riffing with César Vallejo

one Thursday in quarantine:

If you were here we might break out

invalided or since it’s only a matter of

where stress falls in-

                           valid. You’d find us

here together caught on both counts

both sized up amiss by those seizing

the chance to take neither side of any

point they choose at any moment

to seem to make. What geometricians.

As if there were sides from which

we might break out. Even if we were

allowed to say that again –

                                        if if if &

so on to infinity – if you were here.


riffing with Tom Raworth’s

Moving August 28th 2020

when nothing much has moved

hereabouts for 5 months

(the government’s been moved

to explain the situation

although we’re not told where

the government’s moved to)

((cf. the blank entered 10.59pm

June 5th 1970 which could be today

when ‘word’ recorded at 10.26

would be a word too many))

Alan Halsey’s Selected Poems 1988-2016 is published by Shearsman. His latest book is Winterreisen, a collaboration with Kelvin Corcoran from Knives Forks and Spoons. The complete Remarks of Uncertain Consequence awaits a publisher. He is an Affiliated Poet at Sheffield University’s Centre for Poetry and Poetics.

Copyright © 2021 by Alan Halsey, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.