Tim Allen: Two New Phobias

Tim Allen says:
The beginning of the first lockdown coincided with my looking for a new project to hook me in. The most common emotion around at the time was fear and at some previous point I had had the idea of a series using arbitrary phobias as titles even if the poems did not necessarily reflect the phobia. So I began but in the process of writing discovered that it was actually engaging with the titles, sometimes through oblique autobiography, as in Catagelophobia, and sometimes through subconscious invention, as in Catoptophobia. With this project I also wanted, for a change, to avoid any formal stricture or limit, so free prose became the dominant method. A number of pieces from the sequence, for which I am still waiting for a title that rings true, have already appeared in Blackbox Manifold, Molly Bloom and Intercapillary Space.



Catagelophobia – fear of ridicule

Caught again touching a glandular envelope loaned on painful hernia or borrowed indolent arse.

If the ego is not hermetically sealed is gets contaminated by gossip and curses with a short memory after all

if all a page of literature can elicit is a mild chuckle then isn’t that enough for anyone it’s certainly enough for me after all

actual jazz is pretty unique but rarely pretty as on the rare occasions when pretty applies you have to partake in a sequence of exchanged tittle-tattle arranging itself on the oral retina after all

it’s not a question of should jazz be funny but is it because by embodying jazz in the island of whoever makes it it turns said islands into beermats which in turn (in turn) or when they’re flipped contain elements of a sentimentality strong enough to overcome any criticism. That’s powerful stuff after all

that’s pretty powerful stuff however you put it after all

curses have a short memory remember (see above) yet this may not be the blessing it first appears to be after all

the mistakenly slightly jazzy but evidently not jazz sound of sawing coming from next door’s garden no hold on it’s my garden could be interpreted as mocking the lame after all

what is my wife up to now what tree is she dismantling to put back together later after all

it’s her garden or our garden if you want to be legal about it after all

is said and done whatever comes after the neutralisation of luck makes the naturalisation of gardening at a distance impersonate the transmogrification of rudimentary impulse into any music as we recognise as such after all

what if music is just a form of jazz (not the other way around) because if it is then any descriptive term converts far too easily into a template after all

you can walk further with this plate for some sloppy seconds if you wish but at some point you will turn back after all

and head for the opposite horizon carrying a heavy sack of euphemisms while fluffy stuff grows herbs in the cramped corner of your pocket and the last of the sun slips down your lap after all

if you are convinced the garden birds are talking about but not to you or to your complex after all

then doubt is a euphemism for hindsight and hindsight is never too late after all

I’d drunk too much whisky so went on slamming too long on an overdose of confidence and by the way I was putting stuff into the car boot anyone but especially the school cleaner could tell I was having a breakdown after all

I thought our dancing at the hotel disco in Xian had been pretty nifty but the rest of the tour party obviously thought otherwise etc.



Catoptophobia – fear of mirrors

Could a totally obnoxious person take on postmodern hourglass obstetrics by inhaling aid?

Barium meal halo. Retractable fumes. Hey presto.

Sheathed zig-zags. Fluorescent grotto. Said with gusto.

Back garden torch discovers mountain climbers in the cherry tree.

They grow-up so fast and so devoid of the hypothetical. Behind closed doors blind Girl Guides dance in Glastonbury mud while in the great outdoors beyond the perimeter fence Boy Scouts with perfection in their sights dance naked in front of car bumpers. The car bumpers are watching themselves in the slow-witted reflections of dead computer screens.

Animated indefinitely. Never too late to say hello.

Stomach thunder echoes in its own illuminated by lightening channels.

Anaesthetic dreams. Sustainable sensation. Just so sorties to the bathroom.

It’s the same as when you hear the whispered howl of the indictment known as it is what it is as if the same superposition on the alternative flight though the divergences were subtle enough to skip the eternal inversion of copyright and end initialled in photographic stillness on one of two entwined hearts carved into the trunk. Beetle dung in the amber beside you.

Drinking blood drinking urine drinking dirty moon water drinking everything in.

When Man Who Walks is asked where he’s going he says he is walking to the moon.

He stops to feel thirsty. Goes again to feel clean. Night monitor flow.

I am no royalist so bear with me. The village square is empty at noon. The shadows bend their knees to search the road. All the old men have abandoned their games of chess for the promise of the vampire’s kiss. They return at midnight to finish their games and civilly debate whose turn it is to move. Fate is always the result of the Queen’s compromise.

Remember how his other half compared Chinese proverbs with Tibetan puzzles.

She understood relativity better than he did the Sheela-Na-Gig economy.

Gift shop detective counts the hours. Ships left on the shelf. Cloaked meridians.

Now look longer than you care to at the words jammed in the threshold. Shut for too long shop oblivious to postal serendipity for it is this invisible force that concocts visual poetry. Those who read it have milky eyes to ensure the words unhook and float to the surface. She who you love is the only door into and out of the house. Don’t ever look as if you care.
Eye of the storm espresso. City built with the dust of the missed.

Clay fog. Frozen deity below full moon intravenously drinks its own rain.

Anonymous graves. Speed-reading in Shangri-La. Axolotl says Hey presto.

What is hazy in memory is what we do habitually in fact that’s fuzzy to the point of a receding perspective crux swollen every-which-way like a rubber glove with a hand of water or a giant god’s immense yet empty soul hovering between a light speed reply and a cloud of birds a metre away from your face but that is only what it is like not what it really is.

Frontiers sink through panoramic lenses. Overflowing deserts of distraction.

Random religions don’t just erupt anywhere. Neil Armstrong’s cruel nostrils.

Jacques Lacan and Eve in a city of fractal canals. Hegel not Hegel for beginners

but narcissism is always for beginners in flip book moonwalking locked down by likenesses in caves cut off from light leaving no option but to avoid harp music whose sharpness cuts you to the quick changes arising from imperfect repetition too small and smudgy to register as without a host they virally die leaving what lately has become original experience as

the public definitions of a secret life. Or the secret definitions of a public life.

Or public experience as the original life. Or life as the public secret of definitions.

Or public definition as the life of a secret. Or secret experience as the life of definition.



Tim Allen lives in Lancashire and helps run the Peter Barlow’s Cigarette reading series in Manchester (hoping to reopen when conditions allow). Used to live in Plymouth where he edited Terrible Work and ran the Language Club. His most recent books are Under A Cliff Like (if p then q 2017) and Portland: a Triptych, with Norman Jope and Mark Goodwin (KFS 2019). He also has forthcoming books from Disengagement Press and Shearsman.

© Tim Allen 2021


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