the poetry that matters

Alan Britt

Alan Britt teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University and lives in Reisterstown, Maryland. His recent books are Parabola Dreams: Poems by Silvia Scheibli & Alan Britt (2013), Alone with the Terrible Universe (2011), Greatest Hits (2010), Hurricane (2010), Vegetable Love (2009), Vermilion (2006), Infinite Days (2003). Britt’s work also appears in the new anthologies, The Robin Hood Book: Poets in Support of the Robin Hood Tax (Caparison, United Kingdom, 2012), American Poets Against the War (Metropolitan Arts Press, Chicago/Athens/Dublin, 2009) and Vapor transatlántico (Transatlantic Steamer), a bi-lingual anthology of Latin American and North American poets, (Hofstra University Press/Fondo de Cultura Económica de Mexico/Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos de Peru, 2008.) He has also participated in numerous readings and interviews.




As the small-town circus clown said to the oil executive:

I’m joyously fucked up!

But you, how do you sleep inside your virtual skull

like an acorn frozen by February blasts?

How do you live?


You see, I don’t need bullshit rhetoric to navigate

like a ghost panther the palmettos and mythical stars

of my ancient Seminole village.


Instead I rely on baby alligators

to clean clots from my vital arteries;

otherwise, I might just as well feign amnesia

today on this MTA bench

at the corner of Edmondson and Northern Parkway.







When you believe you’ve outsmarted death,

you inherit the most trouble.


Things appear out the ordinary,

and that’s just the beginning.


Phenomenology should clarify, but daily experience

proves as elusive as krill navigating

the baleen plates of a blue whale

rustling the southern coast of Sri Lanka.


Yet, existence mimics earthly possessions, too:

immaculate stereo speakers hand-built in Nashville,

Tennessee exhaling a muscular poetry more potent

than 19th Century proselytizing composers

sentimentalizing their dimwitted youth

into a blind Nationalist frenzy.


Unless you’re a great blue whale from Newcastle,

Indiana, that is, heading straight for the Senior Special

at rush-hour, just before the 50-millimeter Iraqi round

dissects your oldest grandson’s liver into perfect fillets

of smoked salmon for a Vegas munitions tradeshow.


Ah, well, analogies don’t exist any more than

sentimental halters leading us to baptism, our daily

bucket of oats, providing us with religious shelter,

and all at the expense of the rancid truth

camouflaged in black and blue whale disguises.







We’re intricate wheels.




Pumping blackberry houseflies

through our veins.


We remember diminutive horses

too small to indenture,

wire-haired cats

with sulfur teeth

prowling our favorite paths to water.


We’ve sold

ourselves as souvenirs

at quasi-Medieval festivals.


We thought we recognized

the grim reaper’s robe and beard,

but, alas. . .




This is the same irony

that fueled

the great Westerns

of Newman and Brando.


This is the irony

of fate,

if you believe in that sort

of thing.


The irony that grinds

our perfectly healthy words

into illusions, thus, sprouting

the latest bouquets

of newly flowering myths.








Our heads bob like coconuts along the moonlit Gulf.


Lovers arrange coconuts

into a Polynesian marriage ritual

around a watery Saturn.


Our heads bob freely.


On pillows of faith.


Our heads

know there’s danger—

they’ve absorbed six centuries of German fairytales,

they’ve digested world wars and Wall Street disasters.


Our heads fall

asleep, anyway.


Minor earthquakes in the Black Sea

create minor headaches

but otherwise

the coconuts bob along,

mostly happy

to be alive.







The old car, a Chrysler, I believe,

resembles oxidized pale blue cars

abandoned all over Cuba,

with engines large enough

to devour extended families.


The old car finally stirs

and makes a giant swath

disguised as a U-turn

around the intersection of my dream.


Where am I going?


Cold romance. . .the other way!


The musings of my over-active imagination

dragging its lethargic Siberian tiger belly

across a soapstone behind

thick Lucite walls at the Baltimore zoo.


My imagination sizes up

its designer rocks,

its kidney-shaped pool,

then falls into

a sleep so deep

you couldn’t find it

with a limp Dalí pitchfork

or a Nobel microscope

sniffing paramecium!


This sleep

reflects the pain endured

during 12 years of public education.


This sleep is deep.


Suddenly strangers enter the old Chrysler

urging it to carry us

to places unknown.


But the old Chrysler has problems.


You see, there’s a shoe in its water pump.


Resistance placed the shoe there!


The strangers lean close and see

irrational wires like a swarm of garter snakes

weaving the Chrysler’s engine large enough 

to swallow children and small dogs.


I encounter difficulty

as my bent key slashes

the ignition’s smooth brass grooves.


Plus that emotional bruise

loitering the corner of my dream,

giving this moment

its sense of urgency.


But when my bent key finally

excites the old Chrysler’s 440 cubes,

rumbling it to orgasm,

albeit a naïve conclusion, I hazard to say,

there’ll be no turning back

in this dream.



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                                                                                                                      July 18, 2013