TIM ALLEN: Three Prose Poems from A Democracy of Poisons

26. Supposing

Supposing. Just supposing. Suppose that arts admin actually Shakespeared itself and only then found reason for losing a phony war by posing as Government for all. One reason given, I’d suppose, is that authoritarianism is a separate issue for a stray wagon forced to hide in the forest with no wheelwright for 500 miles. No, maybe I’m not practical, but that doesn’t mean I’m impractical or without further ado – e.g. Jack Bruce’s Theme for an Imaginary Western invited yeasty thematics.

Back in the day I wrote a long stringy poem with smudgy turquoise ink called For Pete Brown. I don’t remember any of it but it was sensational and oozed the spirit of love hearts, sherbetty but literate. Some lines were jagged and nervous while others were cushions on garden furniture left out in all weathers to be soaked by the rain and dried by the sun. South Dorset Technical College melted around me, every friend an acidic dayglow cloud, while I went on posing for all I was worth.

That’s not true to be honest, I just thought it would be fun to remove the sup from supposing to do myself a well earned injustice. I wasn’t really posing, I was eking out what words might mean when multiplied by the impractical senses and was not the only freak doing this at the time there were many in what was later called the media who were experimenting by not taking drugs in a similar way. Quoting from the future the period of status plurality didn’t last for long to be honest. The writing was on the wall for all tribal peoples so Syd Barrett’s brain got scrambled but I would live to discover Richard Barrett and translate Nostradamus with him.

Once in Plymouth Art College taking a workshop (not something I made a habit of) an old feller without a pen shouted What about Shakespeare? The subject was Discovered Meaning or something equally daft. The sherbet smell from Barrett’s Sweet Factory sweeping across a park in Wood Green made me a closet naturist.


27. Who

Who is it who walks into the forest? He creeps even though you cannot see him creeping. He crawls even though you cannot see him crawling. He is hidden. He is walking into the forest. Into. Is he in there yet? At what point can we say he is right in there? His stretched stride creeping and his upright crawling give clues. Follow the clues. The eyes alone cannot remove the barriers that obstruct them.

I have a postcard photo of a barricaded street in Paris taken around the time of the liberation given me by a pupil whose uncle or whoever had been in the army. This pupil was unruly but good at art – I still have a felt-tip drawing by him of a sinister human-robot hybrid and sometimes I wonder how far this figure could walk into a Rene Char poem before stopping to frighten the birds who disappear when there is a vampire about. I got that from Dracula. For me it was the best bit in the book, even better than when Mina gets all hot and disobeys Van Helsing’s orders by opening a window and taking the sweetest breath she’s ever tasted.

Even though what will happen is impossible we know exactly what will happen. It’s like looking deep into a flask to see how much tea is left in there. Can you? Can you see? Then you tip it up, unsure whether to put your mouth or your eye beneath it. I’ve seen this happen on school outings. It’s quite funny. A stand-up could use it if he thought that his audience hadn’t heard it before judgement day.

My favourite robot is K9. No surprise there. Incredibly impractical though, for a robot as much as a dog. I don’t like Dr. Who these days though. I tried to explain why on Facebook. I don’t like Sherlock either. I tried to explain why on Facebook. I did like the reflection of Amelia Pond in an alien invader’s shiny armour mind. I’ve heard that dads used to watch The Doctor because of Leela in her leopard skins but the hand needs an animal eye to remove the barrier that obstructs it.


28. Revision

Revision. Knee-jerk. Moment of clarity. Dumbfounded Monastery of Mindfulness. Self-sufficiency nowadays means chopping trees to make a cookery book. I had a vision of the future when I was young and it was so off beam it could be a target for satire. I thought we might be thrown back into the dark ages by the bomb but not by true believers. I thought we might storm the temples of capitalism and the palaces of effing religion but never dreamt of this change of menu. And a menu is just the kind of thing you would expect a precognitive dream to naturally pick up.

Evasion. Here is my drawing of an internal profit & loss transformed into words: infinite image plunges up into fire water etc. If we are holding up placards saying We Are Not Afraid doesn’t that mean that we are afraid? Literary historians of the future will now be able to date this piece precisely as I visualize my externalised self-belief swelling into Betelgeuse. Buddhism’s the only sense I could stomach.

Invasion. Blake asleep under apple tree. If the apple that fell for Newton was the same apple Eve bit a chunk out of is Einstein right? It makes revised sense surely she picked the apple off the tree while Newton’s fell out of his tree when nature dictated. The theological mind can fuse apples. We had two apple trees at my old house you couldn’t confuse: one eaters one cookers, one sweet one sour, one red one green. Comparing their sizes was like saying now if this ball was Betelgeuse

Deep into the wood (no not a forest this time) the lost long-distance walker (not a lost jockey either) comes upon the Dumbfounded Monastery. The outbuildings are disguised as the garage in that Parisian back street which years ago tied our exhaust pipe to the roof of our Mini Traveller. The old chapel is disguised as the complete works of Christopher Priest. The walker chats to the monks as if he was Reverdy chatting to his. Surely you can see where this invasion is coming from.



Tim Allen ran the Language Club reading series in Plymouth and edited Terrible Work. Now lives in Lancashire and is involved with the Peter Barlow’s Cigarette reading series in Manchester. Has had many books out from Shearsman, KFS, Oystercatcher, Red Ceilings and Zimzalla etc. and a new book, Under the Cliff Like, is now available from if p then q.


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