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2 poems by Gary Allen


In our new factories

it is difficult to tell day from night

the lights are new and shiny

the walls and ceilings without windows or skylights

our new factories produce nothing

when the metal has been turned on the lathes

and the components are complete to the last millimetre

they are shovelled into waste bins and recycling skips –

a bit like the apprentices –

and yet there is never enough of anything to go around

the Fijian who is much too big

searches through the piles of scorched wielding gear

for a decent cap and apron

there is a lot of walking about

and form filling

and horseplay with excrement

and the lonely sheet-metal apprentice with the Meanie hair

who sits it out in the toilet block

to give hand-jobs to the older married men

wants to go to London

there is harmony between the religions

no sectarian songs

tattoos must be covered

the housing estates below the dark hills

are floating away like benefit cheques into the off-licence

the clubman

the loan sharks

the drug dealers

the prisoner funds

sometimes English men in suits and ties

walk around with their hands behind their backs

and listen with boredom to facts and figures

then ask if there is coffee and biscuits?

yet there are rooms within rooms where you can step out of yourself

among brushes and boxes of toilet rolls

racing slips

cigarette stubs

that are kind of Zen-like

where the mind floats embryonic

and wise stones appear suddenly beneath steel-capped boots.

Green figs

This is the season

when figures fall like black type

into the street

and men in balloon skirts

fall from the wheels of transport planes

into stony deserts

cartoons will kill you

the air we breathe from one another

can kill too

green figs from a lover’s tongue can choke you

protest songs from the sixties

come back to haunt

and the Tedworth drummer

has taken up residence

in a New York apartment block

and has learned to speak

it is minus zero

on the Finnish border

running through Washington Square park

and she is at peace now

landing a plane among the frozen blocks

in the Hudson river

a porn actress naked under a fur coat

being filmed in the snow on Pier 25

building sand hills in a play pit

pitted with shit, condoms, broken glass

or swinging from the jib of a crane

over a football stadium

as the sun sinks like brandy on copulating dogs.


Gary Allen has published nineteen collections, most recently, 'Bonfire Night,'. His poetry has been widely published in magazines including Agenda, Ambit, London Magazine, The New Statesman, The Poetry Review, Stand, The Wild Court and highly commended in the Forward Prize.


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