2 poems by Gary Allen


Zen


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.