Sunday, 13 May 2012

Featured Poems by Alistair Noon

Alistair Noon was born in 1970 and grew up in Aylesbury. Besides time spent in Russia and China, he has lived in Berlin since the early nineties, where he works as a professional translator. His poetry and translations from German and Russian have appeared in nine chapbooks from small presses. Earth Records (Nine Arches Press, May 2012) is his first full-length collection.
Photo credit: Clare Jephcott


For many years I’ve been researching eagles
that now patrol what once were no-fly zones:
roadside grass, the roofs of Safeways and Lidls.
Exiles back on their European thrones,
sure as if gliding over Asian hills
and skeletons left in scraps of cloth,
it’s rare that they plunge. Are those circling drills
on the ascending thermals work or sloth?
How did the eagles come to be the thieves
of my attention? The regal rodent-eater
soars over the results its prey achieves.
Take the Petersburg serfs. As they served Peter,
they built but never nested in royal quarters,
names lost from the list of authors.

Hey look, a written word! It flaps and lands
with its fox-red back, grey head and zebra wings.
For several quick seconds it simply stands
under a North German Buche. It blinks
and flies off. I fetch your plank-thick book
of still shapes. Gotcha, fringilla coelebs.
This call you reply with, “Buchfink”, I took
to mean the Book Finch. Its habitat? Webs
of print. And beech turned into book. The rules
for naming species breed and grow, begin
to evolve along with the writing tools
we’ve found: inside our onward circling din
surrounding the sudden chaffinch, each faction
of names feeds and drinks from its interaction.


Defending Socialism in thirteen states,
it redirected the traffic in Prague;
then, in rows at the Afghan border,
improvised its own car park.
A press-out cardboard piece
for a weeklong boardgame.
Its pilot-capped driver impatient
to do skids on the North German Plain.
Mass transit for passengers headed
for the English Channel with no ticket.
Produced and counted by plan,
estimated in foreign statistics.
Descended from the wild dogs of Kursk,
bullet-shield and tankbuster’s target.
Till tipped to one side in Wenceslas Square,
not, not assuredly to be photographed.
The Age demanded an Image:
a ploughshare beaten into a T-54.
Brezhnev’s tractors, Yeltsin’s stage,
in the Museum of Threatened War.


Recovering from a plate of dodgy Fried Prawns, the Author drifted into a hallucinatory Haze. He recalls being suddenly reinvigorated and having an intense Vision of responsible Urban Planning, and rushing to the nearest Internet CafĂ© to write it down, where he cannot, by his own Admission, have composed any fewer than 300 Lines, complete with Technical Drawings. In his inspired Ecstasy he forgot to save his Work, and when it came to sending the Plan to his own Email Address, he clicked back at the wrong Moment and found that his Vision had been lost.

William, it’s hotter and colder
by turns than at Nether Stowey.
Concrete smothers the rivers
that in any case breathed no water,
and in the shambling lanes’ low-rise
twistings the demolition notices
are daubed as crosses on doors
that will vanish. One must is to visit
the Empress Dowager’s houseboat,
her gaudy steamer of pale stone,
and the sixth ringway’s now finished,
circling the Northern Capital
like the Great Khan’s cavalry.
For dietary reasons I passed
on the dumplings and duck.
The cycles give way to cars.
I miss our hilltop walks.


Cycling along a concrete track he saw
a slab inscribed with red Cyrillic letters,
a radio operator’s diademed head
and lightning flashing round. The scripture read:
Without radio links we cannot give commands
and without commands we cannot win.
Upright and stony, it stood in all weathers
across the plain and did not withdraw,
and from the lips above the jutting chin
there seemed to slur the voice: ‘Menya zovut
Alexandr, and I control who lands
and leaves this base.’ All else around was mute:
a hut graffitied FOG and FUCK, disloyal;
the flat grass rippling from the sandy soil.

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