Alan Britt (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: 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 served as judge for the 2018 The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award and 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.

AUGUST 5, 2017

Another bottle cap like a crocodile egg
clinks the bottom of a kitchen drawer.

Wet & slimy with a squish like when it
was born, not some 10,000 millennia ago
but here & now, face to face.

Song of strangers prowling a dancefloor.

Song looking for something to hold onto,
song back flipping fate as though fate
might somehow be paying attention.

Song’s epidermis monitoring its heartbeats
of thunder & lightning pillaging its sinews.

Song projecting its future onto a rolled-up
movie screen, song strolling hand-in-hand
with a cobalt blue Chagall angel ascending
an upside-down vermilion goat, & song
stumbling down Baudelaire’s alley of regret.

That’s when clothes tumbled from our shoulders
onto terra firma the first time.

Song with quantum wings dipped in ergot dust
& gazing face to face with a Cnidian Venus
rising from a marble scallop shell.

That’s when our clothes tumbled
from our shoulders the second time.


The first one said,
It’ll never snow.

The second one said,
Who are you to tell me
it won’t snow?

The first one nodded
in compliance.

The second one adjusted
the cuff on his designer soul.

The first one felt pain
but knew damn good & well
no snow would fall.


      Passengers board. For the most part, their hair perfectly clipped, minimal facial hair. From outer appearances, all good boys & girls tucking away briefcases here, chatting there. As you wish, substitute company for country.
      I watch an older man explain to his younger coworker why the younger man won’t be traveling first class like he will. The younger man apparently made travel arrangements for both, & he knows the older fellow will be catching a connection to Copenhagen, yet the younger man looks confused & offers, “But we’re both flying Delta?” The older fellow responds: “Curious, isn’t it.” Substitute, as you wish, company for country.
      A Filipino woman, a Cuban gentleman, both quaffed & pressed. “Traveling for a food distributor,” one says. For the duration they bond by corporation.
      A young businessman requests two seats, one for himself, the other for his female coworker. His coworker reluctantly agrees as they unpack laptops, slide together, & click away to design memos & graphs while ignoring clouds below that resemble azure ice flows as far as imagination can see. For the next hour & a half they enter hibernation from the world.
      Inside the stomach of this 747 sardine, we sleep, chat about nothing of value, sip coffee, & down bagels the size of silver dollars. The beverage cart rattles as our flight attendant observes strict beverage rotation.
      Airline magazine at my knees offers the latest in innovative products at innovative prices. The pitchmen, boyish, resemble plaster. Pitchwomen, lipstick smeared, reveal glimpses of flesh here & there for the products they represent tattooed on their thighs like corporate fingerprints. As you wish, substitute company for country.
      Finally, on the runway we stroll O’Hare like elephants searching for our rightful position at the luggage conveyer watering hole. We stream the terminal, shadowing one another & accosted by pink neon, in search of transportation. Some of us excited to be in the Second City. Others just glad to be alive.

1 comment :

  1. What a pleasure to read these. You do a great job, particularly, of depicting corporate culture and the social givens of air travel.


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