REMEMBER WHEN THE CRUSADES WERE
THE GOOD OLD DAYS?
[Or if guided warheads explode in a country that we cannot see,
do they really explode?]
Was there lots of raping and pillaging during the Crusades?
Or just the right amount?
Was there too much, dare I say,
like some aberrant cult addicted
to Manifest Destiny?
Have we really come to terms
with this raping and mutilation thing?
I mean, how many hundreds of thousands
of fellow humans must we destroy
to achieve the paradise promised
by our fairytales at mass
or the Disney Channel?
Speaking of fairytales,
how about that last election?
Kinda makes you wonder
who’s marching in goosestep
with the Holy Bible?
Makes you wonder about a lot of things
like what’s happening to our time on this precious planet?
Although I don’t actually see them, I swear
I can hear several large tulip poplars
falling in a nearby New Jersey forest.
I was on a hunt for the truth, one day,
well, an Easter egg hunt, more precisely,
but a hunt for flimsy mortality, nonetheless.
A hunt for a brightly decorated truth,
you might say, with its broad green
and blue stripes and doily lemon borders
with lilac highlights just enough
to deceive a callow youth into believing
that he, too, could become President
and control global commodities served
poached for the next Republican
president lounging in bed, his thighs tickled
by corporations capable of manipulating
Well, there it is, then, the truth mangled
once again by humans on their way to
worship sentimental family values aligned
with one elusive god or another.
So, what is truth?
What is this mystery that compels some
to devote their entire lives to the impossible
in spite of so many hardships that offer
luxurious solutions, warm and cuddly,
like lounging seminude before a roaring fireplace
with elbows and nipples half-asleep
before attempting to exit Plato’s cave?
But truth never belonged to Plato
any more than it belonged to metaphysical
mathematicians exercising their freedom
to become insane.
Welcome to the Bayou.
CADILLACS AND SUICIDES
The moment suicide becomes a delicacy
lying on a gravel of shaved ice with lettuce
and smoked almonds shuffled
into a stainless-steel tray by chipped ruby
fingernails resembling vermilion lambs
herded by two swastika guitars.
The moment suicide tramples
mosquito nets fashioned
for the Amazon expedition,
the unexpected moment
when a stranger says he expected laughter
in place of his all-too-familiar grief.
Remember, I told you I could read
your palm, but otherwise,
when you shift with palmetto fronds
that sway on any given July
Lake Worth moonlit night
with your one strapless sandal
or someone else’s abandoned sandal
weighing as much as the Atlantic’s
foaming incisors scarring my adolescent
waist hopelessly in love
with your chameleon eyebrows
crumbling between my lips.
Your hair upon the pillow
like a sleepy golden storm.
Cadillacs and suicides, once again—
why do fascist leaders mean more
to us than intelligent highways
navigating Pinocchio’s nose
growing through the slaughterhouse
of every sensible idea by men
belonging to the stars
or stars belonging to men?
Please teach me.
For I am a teacher.
But mistake me not for a wild scalpel
fluttering beneath a fluorescent tube
hanging from an aluminum hood
flared like a cobra hissing
from our innocuous
happenstance of surnames.
Tonight, I balance every single suicide
on my eyelids in the rain.
[Italics by Leonard Cohen]
Ionize ravens and you get pepper
falling through the branches of oak,
maple, black walnut, plus, a plethora
of magnolia’s horn-billed flamingo
blossoms of regret.
Ionize your faith and watch what
happens to its sticky molecules
clinging to the walls of memory
disguised as your holy DNA.
It so happens there’s depth
beneath the halo of that iconic
peasant and his disparate followers
donning grease stains from axle
bearings that few of us even
Remember, this guy already
recognized that certain things were
simply not tolerated by the status
quid pro quo universe.
This guy worshipped flesh as
a quasi-gnostic glory; so why not worship
his body like a proper epiphany
or at least a bare-shouldered shiraz.
But this guy’s suggestions weren’t tolerated
by the Emperor of Fascism or
Henry Ford hell-bent on swallowing
Carnegie Steel at a clip that would
make nail heads spin in a carpenter’s
So, that’s how we advanced
to this modern age of ionizing
tower fans spraying the walls
of our DNA with graffiti called
the Evening News.
with its shortwave radio crystals began
to rummage its chapped lips
against the moonlit naked hips
of our adolescence.
And just when an industrial flashlight
(page 2 of 2…..EVENING NEWS…..(cont.)
-stanza break here-
Ah, imagine how fortunate to kiss love’s
lips quivering beneath the full moon’s
quicksilver breath nuzzling our lover’s hair!
Memory is so desecrated by the living dead
that I no longer cherish memory; therefore,
I no longer see the sense of falling in love.
Still, ocean waves uncurl like fossil incisors
across my bedroom ceiling like a Japanese
watercolor or Debussy’s La Mer shadows
mixing with the master of 20th century violins
and baritone discontent, Bela Bartok,
that twilit moth of exquisite melancholy.
So, Bela, remind me of everything I need
reminding of, or else shoulder me to the river.
Bela, there must be some mistake.
Bela, and I mean this as sincerely as I breathe,
the 5th violin in your Miraculous Mandarin
must’ve been aged in vodka and cultivated
by a red-knuckled Siberian hanging
from a trapeze found only in dreams
of distant asteroids with their ten trillion
lanterns burning like hell inside the lost
cave of my hungry throat.
Bela, I beseech you!
(God is a concept by which we measure our pain.)
So, there was this bell, well, not a Methodist bell, exactly, but a serious lookalike, strolling beneath a scrub oak morning with Spanish moss trailing its shoulder blades.
Spanish moss as you’ve never known her, clicking her heels, her skirt of democracy shagged just above her left knee.
This moss flourishes where you’d least expect her to, digesting exotic stars and unsuspecting third world governments.
This moss I’m not so keen to ignore. This moss like neurotic teachers or nutritionists fumbling for the lost lavender.
You know what happens when hollow points penetrate, don’t you? They gouge holes the size of tennis balls. Ground chuck for lungs and upper intestines or a heart shrink-wrapped into a Styrofoam schooner named Ariel sinking below a good old-fashioned London broil.
The room was located on some neglected game reserve. The room was oblong and paranoid. The room consisted of cheap boredom marketed by cheap cologne spread from handshake to handshake at the annual insurance adjusters’ golf tournament during godawful thunder with rain and lightning bolts like shards of cynicism denouncing the certainty of our monotheistic flag. I saw the colors, red, white and Atlantic crab claw blue behind the swinging saloon doors in a Yancy Derringer episode with Jay X. Brands, the bronze Pawnee, flashing his elk bone knife inside a bristling tavern of early Bourbon Street.
Early Bourbon Street. Who erected the first cathouse on Bourbon Street, thus, molting it into the mecca it is today? Who subsidized the first jazz note to explode from a tarnished trumpet that left its mark in an oversized saffron mirror behind the bar? The dream is over now. The Saints won’t come marching in any moment now. But give ‘em a whiff of the good stuff and you’ll never get ‘em off your back no matter how hard you try. Give ‘em a whiff of your mind-controlling mythical heaven and you’ll rule the galaxy. That’s reality?
Huh, give ‘em an inch and they’ll take your godforsaken soul.
Alan Britt has been nominated for the 2021 International Janus Pannonius Prize awarded by the Hungarian Centre of PEN International for excellence in poetry from any part of the world. Previous nominated recipients include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Bernstein and Yves Bonnefoy. Alan was interviewed at The Library of Congress for The Poet and the Poem. He has published 18 books of poetry and served as Art Agent for the late great Ultra Violet while often reading poetry at her Chelsea, New York studio. A graduate of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University he currently teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University.