Monday, 14 December 2009

Two Poems by Dave Alton


Often, while the house is quiet, I’m reading
One of the slightly foxed anthologies
Prised from its tightly packed bookshelf, its spine
So faded selection is mere guesswork,

Except for me knowing this modest library
And its order beyond cataloguing.
Sometimes, when physicists publicly
Contemplate a possible multiverse

I wonder why science has been so slow
To recognise what seems quite obvious
To avid readers. Pages of poetry
Are the absolute proof of prodigious

Fecundity inherent in creation.
Not only is the past and present
Pressed like rare blooms between heavy pages,
But the future also is cast in words

Already written. Possibilities
Are realised and explored, every page turned
Opens yet another world, which is why
Tyrants burn books. For the threat to them comes

Not from the poets who can be silenced,
But the poems that cannot be contained
By razor wire and watch towers. Even when
Committed to the pyre poems become sparks

Fanned by the wind and igniting tinder
In unexpected places. This is how
New worlds come into being, when people act
According to such illumination.

Reading, at its best, requires silence,
Although it’s in the silence that voices
Are raised in anger, in exultation,
Until even the full stops are screaming.

Old Joe

Everyone down the club had known Old Joe,
They would have missed him, only the club closed
Two years gone, windows blinded with plywood.
Not for the first time police broke down his door,
Once they’d got their breath back having climbed
All nineteen flights, the lift being knackered again.
Who’d thought it a good idea to upend
A terraced street and stand it vertical?
Who’d thought it a good idea to stick
Some old gadgie in the very top flat,
Up on a level with the seagulls?
“Bloody good view over the Tyne.” someone said,
“Nowt worth seeing,” Old Joe had grumbled,
“Since the yards went, and my vision with them.”
Death leaves chaos and a dreadful stench,
Leaves the younger copper stifling a retch,
Leaves the older one bothered for a moment
By his own mortality. A clutter
Of sock and grey underpants, toppling stacks
Of the local free paper, chipped mugs
Stained with tannin like fingers jaundiced
By years of rollies. Anarchy of old age
Had not possessed Joe entirely it seemed,
For against one wall, in a bookcase,
Meticulously dusted and in order,
Stood proud volumes and selected works.
And by his decomposing armchair
An anthology lay open, face-down
On the thin carpet, making a small tent
Accommodating rebellious ideas,
Refugee thoughts from the world surrounding,
And a well polished magnifying glass.
However much his vision faded
It appeared Old Joe never went blind.