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C.J. Allen

ĎPoems of Universal Wisdom & Beautyí

I forgive everyone. Iím like
that. I donít gossip too much.
Iím a kind of hero. The moon
is like a big empty plate up there,
donít you think? No? Okay.
Iím a very democratic writer.

Most days Iím at work on my
magnum opus:
ĎPoems of Universal Wisdom & Beautyí.
Iím understandably excited. Music drifts
through from the other room
like smoke while I type away
merrily. When lunch arrives I eat it.

Iím trying to free myself
from the idea that intelligence can only be
conveyed by thought, especially
the complex, allusive sort. Readability
is my new thing. Readability
equals intelligence.


Of all of us I was the one who went
to the four corners of language but
I donít take any pride in that.

I did it, I think, by accident
because it was the closest I came to something
to believe in, although I have always believed

in music and, much later, painting, and that,
I think, because of the quiet of galleries and the people
I met who said yes to looking and thinking

about looking, like my friend
from years ago, we wrote to each other,
but lately not for a while. In one of her letters

she said
what do we care, we have
the universe Ė no we havenít,
that was a lie
, and once we lay on the floor

together and that was okay,
we had important things to discuss.
When she left I fed memory with a plate of bones.

A Guided Tour of the Air Museum

Here is the yellow air of London
in the nineteenth century, smelling
of gin and orphans and axle-grease.
Over there is the bright blue air of Umbria
in the 1550s, loud with the thrap of pennants,
the clatter of lances.
And this is night air from beneath
the Brooklyn Bridge, grazed
with the silence of Hart Crane.
That row of jars contains the air
from several Georgian withdrawing rooms,
mostly exhaled in secret sighs
of lust and longing. Musky and dotted
with flies is the air that hung close
to the days and raiment of John the Baptist.
While the air Vermeer painted is clear
as light after a shower of rain
one otherwise flawless September morning.
Remarkably alike are the little boost of air
that ruffled Napoleonís kiss-curl
at Waterloo and the final E flat
from the euphonium on the Titanic.
Fixed between two smoky plates of glass
is an oily ghost that hovered
for decades over a pre-war tin of Swarfega.
The faint opacity of the vitrine
on your left is the
Yes of a girl from 1904.
That concludes our tour.
Be careful as you leave
not to inhale the gift shop.
Just my little joke, ladies and gentlemen.
Please remember your guide.

Advice from Parnassus

Literature is a fine career for a young person.
Itís so straightforward. You just write
down your deepest feelings. In fact
they donít even have to be deep, any feelings
are okay. The media canít get enough.
Everyone knows this.
If you want to you can describe mountains
or sex scenes, what people say, the way
they stare into each otherís eyes
as if desperately trying to decode secret messages.

Thereís so much scope. You drop your coin
in the slot, take a swing at the horizon
and see what comes up. Itís a breeze.
Donít waste your time on cybernetics,
the greasy corporate pole. That sort of thing
is strictly for numps and loobies. Drop by
any time, and remember, when you enter a room
carry yourself magnificently, especially your head,
which you should think of as a vase of lilacs,
preferably painted by Chardin.

The News & The Weather

Too much has already been said

about the spring. More than enough
ink has been squandered on the fall.

It would be impossible to entirely cast out
the volumes that dwell on light.
That winter is marching steadily

down from the hills is as much
yesterdayís news as ripples of sand
on the beach being like something
or something else. The wet-linen

colour of almost every cloud
in literature is, frankly, boring.
It is time to address other things:
empty boxes of rain that are sometimes
trees; the neglected battalions of grass.

Poetry is Your Friend

Itís undeniably true, life
weathers you. Thereís no
doubt about that. Gardens crammed
with slightly creepy little elves,
a van parked on a deserted lane,
the sky almost purple when you look out.

Thatís when you turn to poetry.
You may not know it of course,
but thatís what youíll be doing.
Youíre doing it right now, superficially
despite yourself, riding this wave
of energy out of nowhere. It feels good,

doesnít it? Like a high-sugar drink
or that special moment, you know
the one. Itís here to help
even if it sometimes forgets,
gets all wrapped up
in counting syllables and such.

It wants you like a tyrant or the sun.

© C. J. Allen 2005