Friday, July 31, 2009

Partisan Objections

deviant art

Partisan Objections

I remember years of grief
before the joy began.

Long before the moon dug her
rhinoceros horn
into dawn’s sultry thighs
spread-eagle across my rooftop.

I remember days
we’d all like to forget.

Candy cane bell-bottoms
outlined by Long Island fog
don’t even begin
to tell the whole truth.

Too many after-hours aperitifs,
I suppose, at
favorite Italian restaurants.

Seems there’s been a discovery
on Quasar Five.

Time to resign my life
(such as it is)
over to the black tuft of bouvier fur
stretched across
the basement’s Burberry carpet.

But, god, as we travel
below these clouds,
fueled by lithium kisses,
we pass desperately close
to my partisan objections.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Ken Again

The Molar

deviant art

The Molar


Sweep away that feeble molar
decaying next to a root canal.

Get the broom
and sweep for all you’re worth!

Muck the stalls;
it’s Friday!

Sweep away all indecisions
that debilitate your life.

Sweep away those nasty political centipedes
breeding beneath complacency.

Sweep away the Savoy truffle
of your indiscretionary years.


Water damage always puts me
on instant alert.


When the volcano erupted,
I remember now,
we were huddled below a fresco,
a vague impression
but a tattoo
of mythical proportion
every bit as symbolic
as our universe
appears to be


So, sweep away that feeble molar,
lazing in a hammock
beside a root canal.

Get the broom
and sweep for all you’re worth!

Alan Britt

Posted over on Ken Again

The Method Of His Madness


June 11th, 1992

By Chris Hodenfield

What did it take to face down the great Brando at the height of his Marlonosity? A large dose of hipness or just plain balls?

When I first hoisted myself into Marion Brando's Dodge van, I was struggling badly with the electric shakes. It was the summer of 1975, and in the world of maximum charisma actors, Brando was the unassailable king. Jack Nicholson had warned me that whatever I imagined Brando was going to be, in person he was going to be a lot more. You'd have thought I was meeting Mao Zedong. I was but a fresh‑faced, longhaired punk, just twenty‑five, in a psychedelic shirt out of Arabian Nights. I had flown to Montana on the promise of getting perhaps an hour with Brando, who was there filming The Missouri Breaks. The reasons for my stroke of good fortune were not entirely clear. Something I had written about director Robert Altman had appealed to one of Brando's allies. But the real reason, I expect was that I was carrying credentials from ROLLING STONE. In 1975 there were still clear divisions between straight and hip. It wasn't like today, when everybody is clothed in the same vague shopping-mall casual funk. Brando had no interest in talking with a booze‑hound Broadway columnist with meaty sideburns and a jazzy necktie, here to ask what it was really like to work with Frank Sinatra.

A guy from ROLLING STONE might be different. Brando had a subscription. When Daniel Schorr wrote a big story about the CIA, for instance, Brando would call down for ten extra copies. A ROLLING STONE guy would want to know if the situation was cool.

Being cool was then considered a heightened state of moral sanctity, like being wealthy today. Anyway, the code of cool let you get away with wearing an Arabian Nights shirt in public.

That's what helped ROLLING STONE get through its first ten lean and thread­-bare years of existence ‑ it was serving as the arbiter of cool. Celebrities and politicians who fell afoul of the code often got brutally hammered. And we who made the decisions at ROLLING STONE were a real Barbary Coast stew pot of infidels and washouts.

Before it settled down in New York in the late Seventies, ROLLING STONE was scattered all over the world. The magazine was like a great flophouse for itinerant wordsmiths. People wandered through the door and drank coffee from your cup. Often in your travels you had to flop on some other writer's couch. I can recall nights at Don Katz's flat in London, Howard Kohn's in San Francisco and Bob Greenfield's in Carmel And I don't know how many times some visiting ROLLING STONE dignitary bunked on my sofa. We all assumed that Hunter Thompson had the only expense account in the joint.

As I say, it was a good place for migrant writers, and that's how I found myself joining up in 1970. I had been slumming around Spain and Morocco that year. I fell by England, where my brother Jan was running the London office, and the next thing you know I was assigned to infiltrate a recording session where Howlin' Wolf was mixing it up with Eric Clapton. As I would find over the next fourteen years, in places such as the door to Brando's van, being from ROLLING STONE got you inside.

Nothing about the magazine was se­cure. The whole staff was a shipload of transient poets and fools on a voyage of self‑discovery. I moved along with it. After a couple years in London, I spent a season in the bare‑bones New York office. Then I packed all my gear in a $300 Cadillac and moved to the L.A. office, which was also an open‑door kind of down‑home precinct. The main office at that time was in San Francisco, and it was a raunchy old factory, a palace of intrigues, the nerve center of sudden and inexplicable decisions, the Plato's Retreat of surging excess.

Visiting writers would hit the San Francisco office like sailors on leave. You never knew if you were going to strike it rich or if you were going to get rolled, bitten and tattooed and lose your watch in the fun house.

All writers need something resembling a home, and ROLLING STONE was a natural asylum. Some writers, like Robin Green, Bob Greenfield, Julia Cameron and Tim Ferris, lit up the magazine famously for just a few years before moving on to books and movies. Then there were guys like Robert Palmer, Cameron Crowe, Tim Cahill, Charlie Perry, Joe Klein, Mikal Gilmore and Tim Crouse, who like me revolved in and out, year after year, doing the work of our lives one month and then the following month wondering what the hell comes next. You couldn't easily leave it.

In all the anarchy, though, the writers had that fiery central point of inspiration -each other. You couldn't risk writing like a jerk because all these other guys would run the table on you.

My province became the movies, and I had to abide by the standards set down at the magazine by Grover Lewis, a Texas poet with troubled eyes that still saw everything. Grover heard everything, too. In his stories on The Last Picture Show, Lee Marvin and Sam Peckinpah, Grover's people rose off the page in clouds of limelight. His sweeping, strong‑arm prose showed us that even if we were only writing about showbiz, it was worth it if your writing glowed in the dark.

And that was just Gro­ver. I think all of us ROLL­ING STONE writers were teaching each other lessons every two weeks. Then Hunter Thompson hit the bigs, and we all had to learn a few more moves.

This camaraderie, this group hauteur, is what gave an unlettered sap like me the fiber, the temerity, to face down someone like Brando. The only other person I would meet with an equal physical force field would be Kareem Abdul‑Jabbar, who is seven feet tall. As I sat with Brando for what turned out to be a week of conversation, I was hanging on to a runaway train. But I had the ROLLING STONE writer's attitude to remind me that, loud shirt and all, I was in charge.

For years after the Brando story came out, it proved to be my foot-long, jewel‑encrusted calling card. Theater people treat Brando's utterances as if they were Holy Writ, and I was hailed as an apostle.

I remember one aspiring actor who had to know, had to know, what Brando was really like. I cranked up a few more stories about Brando's intense way of paying attention, his way of boring right into people's skulls. “Brando really listens to people," I concluded.

The actor heard this and got a little defensive. “Well," he said, “I really listen to people, too.” Then he shrugged it off. “But, you know, most of the time they don't have anything to say."

The poor dope had written his own epitaph. In a way, he spoke for all Hollywood, a place where long ago, in a delirium of cash, they just stopped listening to people.

At ROLLING STONE, I got lucky. I had fallen in with people who could see and who could listen. They helped me get the moments down on paper.

RS 213
MAY 20TH, 1976

MARLON BRANDO'S BODY was going through the motions, awaiting the return of his personality. It was miles away. He was reeling it in like a dancing sailfish.

His van was parked by the trees in a grassy field. Inside it was quiet. The air conditioner diced the air. Minutes had passed since our introduction, but he just sat on the edge of the bed, hands in a draw­er fumbling aimlessly with a hank of wires.

That face. He looks like an old medicine man. He appears as unmovable as the city planetarium. The concentration level is so high that when his distant manner suddenly evaporates and he has questions about your mother, ah, the arena gets hot.

He is, indeed, a presence. On the cowboy‑movie set of The Missouri Breaks, shot on the hot dry plains of Montana, people seemed to be no more deferential to the actor than they'd be to any Pharaoh about to exact tribute. I wasn't in that van five minutes and I was playing catch‑up ball...

Any mention of moviedom would be sidestepped very neatly. Finally I asked if he loathed the subject "No," he said, shaking his head with no great commitment. "Most actors don't get any help from directors. Emotional help, if you're playing an emotional part. Most of the time you just come like a journeyman plumber and you gotta have your own bag of stuff ready to go. But the people who perceive most delicately are Bertolucci and Gillo Pontecorvo (Burn!). I never worked with, ah, the guy that did Mean Streets. Yeah, Scorsese, he's the best American director there is. His intuitions allow him..."

He arrested his thought and glanced at my hands. I was twirling my sunglasses.

"What you're doing now, playing with your glasses and looking at me. Shaking your head in moments you don't plan on."

I stopped playing with my glasses, blinked and smiled.

"And blinking and smiling, moving your head. You see, all those are unplanned things. You don't know what you're going to do in sequence. And Bertolucci and Scorsese would allow you to do that. That's the essence of reality."

I had the impression that you were dredging up your own memories for Last Tango. Were they painful?
"No, because after a while it becomes a technical thing."

Still, I said, Last Tango seemed like more than mere technique.
He waved it off. "No, when you…" His face clenched and turned away.
Jesus, I thought, maybe I hit a sore spot.

He was definitely disturbed. His lips taut, his eyes torn. A sob gurgled in his throat and his shoulders shook. For an instant I was paralyzed. I stared at him.

Abruptly, his grief collapsed into a smile. "You just do that, you know. It just sounds like a bunch of tears. You make your face to go happy or to get mad. It’s just too costly to crank up. If you can get by with a technical performance, nobody knows the diff. They can't tell."


Something Special

Something Special

by Alan Britt

When you think about it,
all those wonderful art movies
that Brando never actually made
left us instead sifting the rude ashes
of his comically demented
misfits roaming the harsh Mexican Diaspora.

Then along came The Missouri Breaks,
with Marlon,
the most terrifying regulator of all time,
easing a Creedmore rifle from its scabbard
while dressed like Kierkegaard
in full-bonnet, granny get-up.

Now, despite whatever else you
could possibly say about it,
that’s something special!

Alan Britt

Posted over on Ken Again

Ultimate Innocence

Ultimate Innocence

When was the last farmer
wholly in love with his milk cows?

1860’s, you think?

Perhaps 1914,
or thereabouts?

Or it could’ve
been during the dustbowl years
just before FDR’s sympathetic

Too bad Gene Wilder’s taxi
circling the moon once too many times
finally tossed him onto cold skid row
to slake his impossible lust
with a single, trembling drop
of Woolite.

Sorry about that!

Too bad the Confederate train
snaking the Blue Ridge mountains
didn’t pause
long enough for its boxcar
of genetic mules
to slake
on tourist ticket-stubs.

So, how do we climb
like gardenias
the sultry torso of present-day
during a primordial hurricane
named Katrina, or George W. Bush?

How, indeed, do we skate
the innocent length
of this melancholy ironing board
stretched yoga-like before us?

And how do we know
that white polo balls
flattened into retirement
won’t grow extinct
like dingy cauliflowers
routinely ignored by our diminutive
selves along the produce aisle?

Who knows?

So, I mounted
that black and white pinto
I’d been dreaming about
these past six months.

He said, Let’s go to the caves
of the outlaws
from Wyoming
or Kerouac;
I’d like that.

But, instead, I reached for Saturn,
barely recognized
these past 50 years,
only to find her rings squashed
in an ashtray,
only to witness
the demise
of briefly
what once was
the ultimate innocence
of raucous crows
now oozing tiny drops
of insidious ink
from my adult imagination.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Ken Again

April Afternoon

Painting by Kinuko Y. Craft

April Afternoon

Dog legs
through lattice,
Jacques’ vermilion collar
alerts the aureole
the robin’s
dazzling green overture.

The robin
braids her song
around a thick gray maple branch.

Her song, a small garter snake
disguised as an asp
the golden cup
of truth.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Bolts of Silk

Ode to September

Ode to September

A chilly wind's white
mantra ray belly
curls across the blue sky,
if you're down
looking up.

A nearby ambulance displays white teeth
and bad disposition.

A volunteer fire alarm
suddenly ignites the sleepy neighborhood's
match head
then gradually burns down.

Crows leave hair-line cracks
in the overcast afternoon.

Their squawks crumble
around the filthy white porcelain feet
of my patio chair.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Spindrift



Whoever heard of a photograph
staring back at you
making you uncomfortable?

I mean, what’s that all about?

Making you nervous,
like you needed to stand up
and perform some official duty?

Damn photograph just found me
in my burrow
deep in December.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Bolts of Silk

Work Day

Work Day

I unfold the wrappings and lick
some of the rhubarb from the tin foil.
Beside me in the car, I have hedge
clippers, a saw, and an electric trimmer
with a long thin blade.
Down the street I watch two men
unload their heavy equipment
from a blue truck. They have lawn
mowers, rakes, shovels, electric saws,
and assorted other tools. In a moment
I wonder what I am doing here, in
this car seated next to a pair of ancient
paint spattered hedge clippers with
wobbly handles? But the rhubarb
from the foil; how good it is.
Rhubarb on this hot summer day.

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online

A Thorough Examination after reading a few poems by James Wright

James Wright

A Thorough Examination after reading a few poems by James Wright

The snow
hops away on blue paws
behind dark maple trees.
I have never seen snow:
That is a lie
and you know it.
Sometimes I say things I don’t really mean.
I am not concerned about the cold,
I would lie to you
if I could;
you know you would believe
anything I say.
As this situation
presents itself,
I think about the snow,
and I realize it is all a lie.
It must be a lie,
I am afraid to think anything else.
If I were to say the trees
invited me inside
and covered
my hands with bark,
what would
you say?
I know you would
pour my blood over the ground
to see if the color was right.
Isn’t that so?
Then you would
stomp on my bones to see
if they break.
I know your kind.
I know all about you.
Your voice is so familiar,
but your face remains a blank.
I have died many times
trying to think of your name.
but it is impossible,
useless. I have
become afraid
and stay in the dark places.
It is much simpler,
besides, I don’t know
what to do with my hands.
I am tired of lying to you.
I am tired of sneaking around
even in daylight,
pretending my collar is a bird
in search of a grey limb.
I am tired of it all:
the night in its rubber hunting boots,
the automobile stalled between
the duck’s brown feathers.
I am tired
and it is all your fault.
Put this poem down
and wash your face,
plant a tree in your eye socket.
Let go of my elbows.
I am tired of your silly comments
about my poems,
and your wooden eyelashes
that bang against the wind.
I am not sure you exist.
Oh, yes. I am very careful
on matters concerning you,
I wouldn’t lie about a thing like that.
I stand in the cold grass
and search for you a long time,
your vacant face and wilted hands,
but you are hard to see beneath
your cufflinks and tie pins.
You stumble over the silverware
and fall beside the ham in your plate.
If it were a matter of interest,
I would say that this is humorous.
But as a matter of doubt
I would say you
never even got this far.

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online

Thursday, July 30, 2009



Your fingers fly
over the river
into a windy field
plant dark cactus hair roots
in the ground
your voice blows
along river’s mud

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online


"October" by Michael Gustavson


October rolls in the grass
spilling apples
from its lips

Hands riding in automobiles
pull at the sky

A lawyer wakes up
watches a woman walking
across her back lawn

Someone drifts to a kitchen faucet
bumps against spoons

A hidden record’s music
peels off the walls

The wind carries a thistle
as brown shoes run through a field
searching for October
playing in the dark grass

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online

Not Alone

Not Alone

A black stone floats
in the two lovers’ lips
I am not at all alone today
the grass leaning against a stone
a grackle wanders among
tobacco colored leaves
the sound of a river pulling boats
In the distance
someone is unbuckling a grey head
but the lovers are persuing
the mountain in the fingertips

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online

Eaton, And Other Industries

Eaton, and Other Industries

The French poets: Bonnefoy, Dupin,
and du Bouchet,
do you expect us to eat these billboards,
or comb our eyebrows with these metals
that drop from their hands?

Jorge Carrera Andrade astride a horse
of wind! Your nose
sniffs at the corners of these buildings.
In your right hand
you hold an angel of lead;
in your left
the body of Rafael Alberti.

How sorrowful the people of our country,
They stand inside mouths
along the rainy streets.
The downtowns flowing with hair;
a woman walks with a bleach bottle
tied around her waist.

When I step outside the house,
all I can say is
“the holy solitude is lost.” My feet
merge with gravel as I watch
the blue evening bend its neck
and sink below the earth.
I stand in a vacant field
and lift up my arms.
Its sands begin to move
beneath my feet . . .

This is where I will die,
here in this vacant field
beneath a starched handkerchief.

Alan Britt

Posted over on AGNI Online

Ode To Jackie Robinson

Ode to Jackie Robinson

Papa Joe's Big Red
is my kinda merlot.

Like koi rippling the muscular surface
of a Columbian drug cartel's afternoon pond
shadowed by various Roman statues
cupping their algae-covered breasts
and pissing on the hyacinths.

This merlot,
sister or lover?

You decide.

Fate was never
my strong suit.

This fate who never ceases to amaze me.

This fate who once threw nasty curveballs
at God's heavily-padded shinbones
blocking the plate
whenever Jackie Robinson
tried to steal home.

This fate sitting beside me right now,
tipping her third crystal glass
of Papa Joe's Big Red.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Ascent Aspirations

November Leaves

Photograph by Darren Hester

November Leaves

The trees are a thick
ochre wash.

Chamber violins
& trumpets
Baroque leaves
that swarm
the wet ground
this overcast afternoon.

From time to time
red oak blood
a small herd
of yellow leaves.

A new violin,
sadder than its chamber sisters,
the gradual descent
of one crisp, brown

Alan Britt

Posted over on Magaera



My neighbor
drags cancer
up his
cement steps.

His son,
from Texas,
pulls a white
rental car
into the driveway.

minus some
who’ve died
since I started
this poem,
are needles
of grief
numerous holes
across the souls
of the living.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Megaera

The Balcony

Painting by Jason En

The Balcony

Shasta & I listen
to crickets.

In his black waistcoat,
a streetlamp
the crickets’ violin solos.

Chilly owls
in the balcony
rub their wings
against velvet merlot ropes.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Autumn Dream

Autumn Dream

If I could wear
fog as
a pair of pants,
I’d consider it
lounge wear.

Burn marks
from cigarettes
left on wooden bars
the walnut stripes
of dragonfly wings.

Large, bronze
helicopter dragonflies,
traveling swarms
through canal grasses
of South Florida ,
late July.

But here, tonight,
in Reisterstown , Maryland,
nearby teenagers
smoke pot
behind a dark-screened porch
& absorb the cicadas’
tiny castanets
of insomnia.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Listening To A Train

Listening to a Train

Is a train
a reptile?

to their black waists
in humidity,
dance flamenco
beneath a maple
by dying tomato

my brain
to absorb
every neutron
of blue electricity
the crickets’
sable hips.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Thoughts Turn To Death As Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

Painting by Rajani Balaram

Thoughts Turn to Death
As Autumn Leaves
Begin to Fall

has forced
me inward,
made me
embrace solitude.

The bluejay
drops a
grey & blue
dipped in white gesso.

I want
to live
inside the entire feather,
not just
its infinite
blind tip.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Thoughts Turn to Love As Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

Painting by Shane Rickman

Thoughts Turn to Love
As Autumn Leaves
Begin to Fall

Love is not yearning
for the other
person to suffer.

Isn’t that funny?

My face is in love
with the moon;
a black pearl streetlight
with the sun;
a tomato
your gentle hand.

The other person
is going to suffer
as it is,
no encouragement necessary.

So, go ahead, build a comfortable nest
inside your soul,
one that affords the luxury
of love.

But just make sure
your residence is large enough
to include
the clouded leopard.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Quiet Weeping

Quiet Weeping

like barn swallows,
rise above a rusty barrel
behind a vacant apartment building
in the Bronx .

Flames leap
from the
red knuckles
of discarded men.

Remember these ashes
as you tap
your new millennium
French wine flute
against the moon’s
silver torso.

If you look closely
you’ll see
delicate etchings
left by the swallows
on the smooth waist
of your glass,
just below
the unfocused eyes
of quiet weeping.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission



A man
sits alone.
One thought
becomes a
with others.

John Donne’s
like brass gears
on a mantle clock
with angels
long horns
of exquisite love.

became mantis
broad hips.

on the nude shoulder
of a
split-rail fence.

Schooled by witches,
are gypsy insects
who celebrate
sunk in

Tiny sopranos
of magnesium.

are hinges
that behave
like bees
by the wrinkled orange
of squash trumpets.

One thought
is a gear
that slips
on the tractor-trailer
navigating our
drowsy neighborhood
this evening.

are cobra eyes
rising along
a toad’s
thick neck.

drift like thoughts
the flickering windows
of a distant

At night
the train’s
deep scars.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Crickets & Machetes

Crickets & Machetes

strapped to
black ankles,
of pure nickel.

with stars
like spurs,
tiny scorpions,
of lust.

swing machetes
of lamplight
their infinite
of romance.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Rivers, Lamps, Insects

Rivers, Lamps, Insects

insects control
with their
white voices.

Their whistles
widely scattered
of childhood
the brain
this August evening.

its blue shoulder
against a white fence.

My soul
is an egg;
its enamel
while air-conditioners,
the skin
of dead thoughts.

The insect
a silver eye
for drowning
or exchanging
in the
to breathe
one expansive
of genuine solitude;
from a river
of mercury
beneath my spine.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

August Night

"August" drawing by Koji Yamamura

August Night

The August
a full lantern.

of each other.

are vertebrae
lined up
the spine
of a dream.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Eleventh Transmission

Dream Highway


A woman dresses in knives.

Curved blades
designed for disemboweling.

This woman who first planted the dark roots
of her kiss against your lips.

Her roots haunted everything:
second-year Algebra,
fraternities dissolved into pot smoke,
marriages on the rocks.

But these roots
also altered DNA.

They sent satellites
around the earth so many times
that even governments became suspicious.

Eventually, though, these roots
as satellites like annoying alarm clocks,
found our homes
and buzzed
our romantic dreams.

Woman in knives,
is she
what you expected
when you first tasted her?

Is she younger,
than you expected?

Remember the morning she last entered
your dream
and mingled with strange relatives
packing boxes for a move?

Relatives heading cross-country somewhere
based upon a map
that never existed?

She left
in a separate car.

Miles stretched into years
on your dream highway.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Rogue Poetry Review



While I thought
I was learning
how to live,
I have been
how to

Leonardo da Vinci

Thinking About Illusions

Birdmen by Kiyotei

Thinking About Illusions

I chose my own illusion...)
—Pablo Neruda

Since illusions are doled out
like bouquets
of canary, iris, and mauve flowers
neatly stacked in white plastic
five-gallon buckets
waiting for us at the next intersection.

Well, the truth is that illusions
every day get crushed beneath
the supple hooves
of a mountain goat
who's flowing white hair resembles
an angel recently escaped
from the local Catholic church.

There are green chirps beneath
the green canopy
of our fabulous maple
who's becoming a tyrant these days
with her glistening wet leaves
that create perpetual dusk.

A male cardinal injects his hypodermic
of morphine methodically into
the afternoon's green shoulder,
followed by six drops of mercury
rolling down the cracked pupils
of the religious icon's paint-peeled eyes.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Unlikely Stories

With Time To Kill In The Midst of a Crisis

With Time To Kill In The Midst of a Crisis

For 20 years I’ve never quite discerned
these twisting white flowers
in the twilight
that filters
our gauze dining room curtains.

Outside, heavy humidity rubs her breasts
against all eight window panes.

I believe these white flowers
belong to the camellia or wild rose
family, somehow,
flapping their crocheted wings
at the sight of April
sauntering in the nude
past our open dining room window.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Unlikely Stories

36th Light Poem: In Memoriam Buster Keaton

4:50-6:18 A.M. SAT 1 JAN. 1972

As a mad scientist
Buster lights a Bunsen-burner flame
that starts a series of processes
that eventually releases The Monster

As an Undertaker
Buster lights a Bunsen-burner flame
that starts a series of processes
that awakens a drunk who was about to be buried as a corpse

As a Muscovite
Buster lights a sisal wick in a sesame-seed-oil lamp
that suddenly lights a mystical orgy
officiated over by Rasputin

As a boater
Buster beats a cascade by floating out beyond its edge
borne by a balloon
lit by a wintry sun

As an Unwilling Passenger on a Drifting Liner
Buster the Millionaire & his rich Girl Friend
learn to cope Alone Without Servants
when forced to rely on the light of their Upper-Class Intellects

As a Worker
Buster arouses the Compassion of the Nation
in whose light the Corporations
sell themselves to their Workers

As a Key Man
Buster carries around with him
an enormous bunch of keys
lighting the way with a Keats lamp

As a Beatnik
Buster meditates in a Redwood forest
seated where the Selenic light
first falls at Moonrise

As a Leaf-&-Feather Gatherer
Buster Means Well but bugs everyone in the Park
spearing the ladies' hats & the picnickers' salads
in featureless Hollywood Light of the century's first quarter

As William Butler Yeats
Buster addresses an irate Irish crowd
that thinks that Poetry makes Nothing Happen
but lets itself be bathed by its Truthful Light

As a Cannoneer
Buster explodes his own ship's magazine
treads water in Gunpowder Light at a safe distance
& blushes in embarrassment at his Clumsiness

As a Violinist
Buster surpasses Paganini
until Boston-Concert-Hall Light
Poisons him with Love for a Proper Bostonian Maiden


Spirit of Buster Keaton
if you survive as yourself
receive Please our honor & praise
you conscientious Workman

Hard-working Buster Keaton
when you arouse the laughter of children
as you live in Projector Light
Your Karmic Residue dissolves in Joyous Shouts

Jackson Mac Low

Posted over on Maclow

32nd Light Poem: In Memoriam Paul Blackburn

9 - 10 OCTOBER 1971

Let me choose the kinds of light
to light the passing of my friend
Paul Blackburn a poet
A pale light like that of a winter dawn
or twilight
or phosphorescence

is not enough to guide him in his passing
but enough for us to see
shadowily his last gaunt figure

how he showed himself to us
last July in Michigan
when he made us think he was recovering

knowing the carcinoma
arrested in his esophagus
had already spread to his bones

How he led us on
I spent so little time with him
thinking he'd be with us now

Amber light of regret
stains my memories of our days
at the poetry festival in Allendale Michigan

How many times I hurried elsewhere
rather than spending time with him
in his room 3 doors from me

I will regret it the rest of my life
I must learn to live
with the regret

dwelling on the moments
Paul & I shared
in July as in years before

tho amber light dim to umber
& I can hardly see
his brave emaciated face

I see Paul standing in the umber light
cast on his existence
by his knowing that his death
was fast approaching

Lightning blasts the guilty dream
& I see him
reading in the little auditorium

& hear him
confidently reading
careful of his timing

anxious not to take
more than his share of reading time
filling our hearts with rejoicing

seeing him alive
doing the work he was here for
seemingly among us now

I for one was fooled
thinking he was winning the battle
so I wept that night for joy

As I embraced him after he read
I shook with relief & love
I was so happy to hear you read again

If there were a kind of black light
that suddenly cd reveal to us
each other's inwardness

what wd I have seen that night
as I embraced you
with tears of joy

I keep remembering the bolt of lightning
that slashed the sky at twilight
over the Gulf of St. Lawrence

& turned an enchanted walk with Bici
following Angus Willie's Brook
thru mossy woods nearly to its mouth

to a boot-filling scramble up thru
thorn bush & spruce tangle
Beatrice guided me & I was safe
at the end of August on Cape Breton Island

but when Jerry telephoned me of
your death
the lightning that destroyed
the illusion you were safe

led thru dreadful amber light
not to friendly car light
& welcoming kitchen light

but to black light of absence
not ultraviolet light
revealing hidden colors

but revelatory light that is no light
the unending light of the realization
that no light will ever light
your bodily presence again

Now your poems' light is all
the unending light of your presence
in the living light of your voice

12:33 AM Sun 10 Oct 1971
Jackson Mac Low

Posted over on Maclow

5th Light Poem and 2nd Piece For George Brecht To Perform, Tho Others May Also Unless He Doesn't Want Them To


George Brecht
in a white light
sits on a white
wooden chair.
He wears a
white tee shirt
white cotton trousers
white socks &
white tennis

He throws white roses
from a white vase
into a white waste-
basket placed
at a challenging distance from the chair.

Around & between
George's chair
& the wastebasket
he has placed
sources of some kinds of light
& emblems of the possibility of others.

He continues throwing the roses into the wastebasket
until he misses.

Then he goes to the rose on the floor
& carefully draws a line on the
floor with
white chalk
from the bottom of the rose's stem
to the petals &
prolongs the line until he hits
or nears
a light source or emblem.

After pocketing the chalk
he retrieves the roses from the wastebasket
counts them out loud
& returns them & the one from the floor
to the vase.

He goes back to the white chair.

As he sits
the lights go out
for as many time-units
of his own choosing
as there had been roses
in the

Then George produces a light by means of the source
if the rose pointed to a light source
& if it pointed to an emblem
he makes the kind of light the emblem symbolizes visible.

This kind of light remains visible
for as many time-units
(either one's the same as those that measured the darkness
or different ones than those that measured the darkness)
as there had been roses in the wastebasket.

Among the kinds of light that might be seen now
might be
watch-light light
jump-spark igniter light
rays of light
cold light
naphtha-lamp light
noontide light
almandite light
enameling-lamp light
a nimbus
meteor light
Jack-o'-lantern light
water lights
jack-light light
refracted light
altar light
Corona-cluster light
magic lantern light
ice-sky light
clear grey light
natural light
infra-red light
Reichsanstalt's lamplight
Saturn light
sodium-vapor lamplight
cloud light
Coma-cluster light
alcohol lamplight
light of day &/or

One of these kinds of light might be seen now
some other kind of light.

After a short darkness
the white light goes on again
& George
on his white wooden chair
throws the white roses into the white wastebasket

Then he does what he does again
then more darkness
the kind of light
pointed to
by the rose on the floor
then George in a white light throwing roses
& so on
until he feels it beautiful to stop.

Jackson Mac Low

Posted over on Maclow

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

String of Beads

String of Beads

(It is a string of beads
one should look at with luminous eyes.)

That's Kabir
tripping on pharmaceutical LSD or otherwise
analyzing our DNA
the way Socrates addressed
his students not enslaved
to hauling limestone
up the treacherous Aegean coastline
for the foundation of Greek society.

That's Kabir
asking us to drink our exotic coffees
with a modicum of truth.

It's the only way,
Kabir says,
to avoid the insufferable straw traps
laid along the forest floor
of our insufferable faith.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Unlikely Stories

The Mockingbird


It’s 2:04 in the morning
& this mockingbird
has already
been at it 45 minutes.

Variety unrivaled.

into strains
of Schoenberg,

Trills & combinations,
repetitions that rival
rusty hair,
swoops & dives
descending notes
in perfect unison!

The mockingbird’s
on my spine.

I lie
in cold, black grass,
the pages
of my bones.

The moon,
stalking the yard
in her mother-of-pearl nightgown,
presses her bruised lips
against my throat.

Wolves prowl
the black pearl corridors
of the moon’s waist.

A flexibility of razors
from the mockingbird’s white shoulders.

as a nerve
splintered in dusk,
I’m incredibly

I could die happy
as though
in a hammock
of ashes.

Alan Britt

Posted over on March Street Press

A Few Minutes With "The Tyger"


You can never rewrite "The Tyger,"
but you can drink
its energy.

In my midnight yard
the Tyger's paws of mist
are therapy on the shoulders
of forsythia.

The mist
which slowly rallies
into fog
the lungs of creation,
fueling the diaphanous wings
of teal dragonflies.

On lonely afternoons
school children mount
the shimmering backs
of these glorious dragonflies,
then sail away
on these tiny angels
of imagination.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Homestead Review



A Warm Springs Apache
rides across the gun metal sky.
The cicada
is a black flute
the eyes
of Apache Grandmothers,
when several
rattle at
the same time.

But death as a
common viper
turns out,
is no match
for hand-blown European test tubes
filled with mercury.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Homestead Review

Alan Britt

Alan Britt

Alan Britt teaches creative writing, poetry, and composition at Towson University. He is committed to combining creative multi-media, student participation, along with a little fun to enhance the learning environment in his classes. His poetry, flash fiction, essays, and interviews have appeared worldwide in such publications as Agni, Arson, Christian Science Monitor, Clay Palm Review, Confrontation, English Journal, Epoch, Fire (UK), Flint Hills Review, Fox Cry Review, Gradiva (Italy), Kansas Quarterly, Latino Stuff Review, Magyar Naplo (Hungary), Midwest Quarterly, New Letters, New Voices (Trinidad & Tobago), Pacific Review, Pedrada Zurda (Ecuador), Poet's Market, Puerto del Sol, Queen's Quarterly (Canada), Revista Solar (Mexico), Sou'wester, Square Lake, Steaua (Romania), plus the anthologies, Fathers: Poems About Fathers (St. Martin's Press:1998), Weavings 2000: The Maryland Millennial Anthology (Forest Woods Media Productions, Inc.: 2001, St. Mary’s College, MD), and La Adelfa Amarga: Seis Poetas Norteamericanos de Hoy (Ediciones El Santa Oficio. Peru: 2003.

His recent books are Vermilion (The Bitter Oleander Press: 2006), Infinite Days (The Bitter Oleander Press: 2003), Amnesia Tango (Cedar Hill Publications: 1998), and Bodies of Lightning (Cypress Books: 1995).

Alan received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Tampa and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He occasionally publishes the international literary journal, Black Moon, from Reisterstown, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, daughter, two Bouviers des Flandres, and two formerly feral cats.

The imagery in Britt's poems connects itself to an idea and is, therefore, deeper and more meaningful than embellishment or decoration. In this manner, a linguistic experience is born, one that is palpable to the five senses. No accent pieces needed-Britt does more than get close to the bone-he gets to the heart of the thing itself and makes it resonate with something deeper than exactitude. His images are painted as if vibrating, as if his letters were tuning forks. Britt's imagery, therefore, evokes a mood and meaning simultaneously.

--excerpted from Dr. Maura Gage's introduction to Infinite Days

Here's what's being said about

Images are the key to what is serious in life: lying, as such, but the great and only occasion to understand what is truth. I enjoy poets like Alan Britt who know where to look for truth.

--Yves Bonnefoy

Vermilion, the new volume of poetry by Alan Britt, is a concise but very humane piece of poetry. Two moods flood this volume-a mystic mood, and then a contemplative mood. The first one is not canonic, because if one can talk about a mystic feeling, this suggests the construction of each poem as embodying a sort of mantra. Eagles, white pelicans and above all the snow leopard are savior-animals and symbols not only for the sacrifice, but also for the pilgrimage that all of us, as interior monks, must undertake in our lives.

--Ruxandra Cesereanu

Vegetable Love


The question is,
do plants
make moral judgments?

We know
they’re responsive.

They prefer
Mozart over Molly Hatchett,
but Cream
over Souza,
& so forth.

A street light
invades our midnight garden,
rubs her silver hips
against hand-guided
tomato vines.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

June Garden


Yellow udders
for the squash god.

broccoli leaves
young tobacco plants.

Tall tomato vines
against faded stakes
that resemble Medieval canes.

Ruby lettuce
crouches in
silent fireworks.

Onions & garlic
subterranean light.

A rhubarb’s wild elephant ear
dozes in cool humidity;
the entire herd
grazes in the mist.

They all know
I’m a brother.

I carry
their scent
wherever I go.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

One Angel


You would behead
for god?

How does
that work, exactly?

Would you devote
or sixty-seven
of your life

for the right
to finally set
your own boundaries,
only to discover
those boundaries
to be headstones
circling the
edge of darkness?

I know one angel
who won’t
be held back.

Is one angel enough?

Because I could
find two,
maybe three?

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road



A herd of crows

circles a large maple tree.

Coarse flecks

of pepper


the blue.


of discontent.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road



At first something


a large branch

behind me…..



crickets with

brass bells

on their hips



Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

Here's To Writing a Poem on the Thirteenth of Every Month For an Entire Year, But Knowing I'd Never Remember All That


(For Carl Jung)

Taboos are like bongos;
you find the beat
you like the most,
then eventually discard them
in a pawn shop
on Greenmount Avenue,
hoping they’ll materialize
into beautiful rivers
on a Baltimore Street Arab’s ebony face.

Taboos were always meant
to sprout black pearls
deep in the fertile souls
of humans.

All this elaborate masquerading of taboos
typically makes me hungry
and, sometimes, makes my soul
resemble a barracuda
trolling the dark shifting floor
of our mythical collective unconscious.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

Poems In Progress

deviant art by slaine


You know, after working over

these poor things,

some wounded, gashed, bleeding,

and holding their sides,

it’s a wonder they trust me

to approach them at all,

considering their fragile conditions.

But I coax them,

time and time again,

urging them to reveal themselves,

hibernating in their dark barrels,

knowing that any moment

could be my last.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

Evolution of Stars


(For Aunt Pearl)

that first inspired alchemy
are out tonight.

In symmetrical
barely moments
of light oozing
from the fine hairs
of Vermeer’s brush
disguised as a metaphor
for love.

Our sleight-of-hand universe
tosses a deck
of cards
onto a formica kitchen table.

Great Aunts,
Uncles, Cousins,
fan their cards
of fate
like the gauze wings
on indigo dragonflies
the nerve endings
of family bond.

The stars
shed their insect wings;
their wings
& fall
until they form
a language on the
kitchen floor.

in a different universe,
the evolution
of stars
is unique.

But I have a feeling
that even alien Saints
thoroughly enjoy the alchemical light
of their stars,
in their own fashion,

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

Writing Poems

deviant art by east monkey.


Writing poems seems
to the uninitiated,
I’ll admit.

Sitting for hours
in one spot
recalls Wordsworth’s
marvelous patience.

I’ve been soaked
by dripping fog,
shit upon
by insolent jays,
& serenaded
inside my humid summer,
tomato cantina
by dark-eyed crickets,
passionate cicadas,
& a female cardinal’s
distinctive lexicon.

I could’ve been
an abused clerk,
but I chose instead
this peculiar night-watchman’s job
that requires me
to record the sleepy hours
that roll
beneath a streetlight’s bruised eyelids.

Life in darkness
holy imagination.

I suppose
you could say
that such
lively solitude
is an acquired taste
Otherwise, when you think
about it,
it’s a wonder
we have
as many
unrequited poets as we do.

Consider this.

What if poets
wrote only about their real lives,
caught wriggling
beneath a chain-link fence
near the burning edge
of a Nazi searchlight?
juggling humiliation like chain-saws?
Lives overwhelmed
by the illuminated spots
of love & cruelty?

Come to think of it,
we can barely define
these words love & cruelty,
much less
construct elaborate symbols & myths
around them.

Oh, well.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road

Ironic Fog


Sky at 12:47 AM,
full moonlight
diffused by fog,
ether through cotton,
like overcast
winter dusk.

Objects emerge –-
yellow leaves
from the final maple,
haloed by porch light;
pine lattice shuffles her deck of cards,
all diamonds;
chimneys like mastheads
roam the fog.

A fire alarm
two alarms
assault the night.

Strange how this ironic fog
could ignite a single spark,
much less
a blaze.

a crow caws
its way
across the yard.

Cars, like waves,
slosh dirty foam
against the curb.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road



The woman with ebony eyelashes
presses the elevator
as my waist
past her perimeter.

The door closes.

Intimate thoughts
are vaporized
by green numbers
illuminating each floor.

A breath of cloves,
or gingivitis?

But I imagine a leisurely stroll
through moonlit surf
if only
to taste the purple coquinas.

Her toe pounds twice,
calf stiffens
as the elevator oozes to a stop
1,000 stories
above my wildest expectations.

No one enters.

No one departs.

We descend
at a rate faster
than you can imagine,
falling about 10,000 years per second.
At around the third floor
we begin the false stop
so often experienced
on public elevators.

Then the door opens
and we exit like two swans.


Too much attention is paid
to sanctioned marriages.

Not enough
to impulse.

Alan Britt

Posted over on Strange Road