‘On Hold for the Time Being’:
Remarks of Uncertain Consequence
Spring & Summer 2020


A logoclast in lockdown
tries to recover that longlost song
‘Will yowe walke the woods soe wylde’.
What’s he thinking of?
Knocked-out verses & life as
life was in jolly England?
Quickies in the bushes with
one or other siren Boleyn?
The tune’s still played
It’s only the words that walked out
Only to vanish in a mighty forest.
They’ll be as hard to find
these days as a mighty forest
to look for them in. Is the logoclast
imagining some nearby reserve
such as the not so wild Ecclesall Woods?
It would be a comfort to walk there
(the logoclast thinks)
were it not for
(and thinks the subjunctive
is the ideal tense for a lockdown)
a virus not a metonym
for scam or net boast.
Were it not for the posses
armed for moorland vigil
mostly he supposes looking
out for him. Oh him
only scratching down words
he’ll only scratch out
when he’s done singing
for want of a word
these ticked-off nights
to himself of himself
walking woods soe wylde.

*

riffing with Jack Spicer
under house arrest:

Wherever will I find
an ache or echo or object to
object to as much as to
a stack of obstacles
flaky prophecies I meant
to say flashy prosthetics
voice flagging at half-mask
noises none understand.

Honesty as home decoration
that’s moonwort allowing
white shadows wide berth
in the dust left by those
who saw through time.
I’ll do as I ought
Refuse until the lights come on

Avenge averagely.
I have a month’s supply of sole-
cisms ready to collect
on Dover cliff or if I wish
to skip a few centuries the beach
but there’s a storm just now
a swarm of duckbilled platitudes
pesky to contend with.

*

Dr Hellbent on hellebore
paid my dreams a visit
warning me to never
disparage disparity.
I wouldn’t call that a vision
‘whereout the world
was extraught’ but what
you get if you read
Behind the State Capitol
alongside Tom Nashe on
the Terrors of the Night.
What it is to ‘confound
in one gallimaufry’.
At 3am Dr Hellbent
listens to the rhythm
of the falling rain
not supposing it’s the
Everly Bros’ comeback
but Greta Garbo’s ghost
crossdressed or just cross.
Pit or pat? Ask Dr H.
Sure as an Easter rose
Doc Hellbent knows.

*

Lee Harwood had a thing about pangolins
although he told me once he’d only seen
one stuffed in the Brighton museum
he worked in at the time as an attendant.

Whether Marianne Moore met one’s unsure.
She said she took some of her description
from ‘Pangolins’ an article by Robert T. Hart
in Natural History, itself a museum piece.
Perhaps she came face to face with one
in the Bronx Zoo but in that case would
she have called it however amusingly
‘This near artichoke’? Better that she exalts
the pangolin’s part in the ‘splendor
which man in all his vileness cannot
set aside’.

                  Nowadays & any time
you choose you can watch one on youtube
turning his or her head left & right with
what looks like a smile. He or she’s penned
in a Chinese market & up for auction
as either top-price meat or an aphrodisiac
if not the elixir of life. Top-price because
there aren’t so many pangolins around in
the 21st century. On youtube because
they’re possibly carriers of Covid-19.

*

Further to Sir Thomas Browne’s notes on bubbles
such as ‘They are more lasting & large in
viscous humidities’ & ‘Boyling is literally
nothing butt bubbles’ & ‘Even man is a bubble
if wee take his consideration in his rudiments’
we may pause to reflect that we individual
bubbles when struck by a pandemic are instructed
to associate with no more than five other
bubbles in a catchily defined collective bubble.
Further to which we may worry we’ll be caught
in Russell’s Paradox again if we question whether
a bubble of six bubbles constitutes a set of bubbles
belonging to itself or not. But that’s a bubble
this bubble prefers not to bubble up with.

*

riffing with César Vallejo
one Thursday in quarantine:

If you were here we might break out
invalided or since it’s only a matter of
where stress falls in-
                           valid. You’d find us
here together caught on both counts
both sized up amiss by those seizing
the chance to take neither side of any
point they choose at any moment
to seem to make. What geometricians.
As if there were sides from which
we might break out. Even if we were
allowed to say that again –
                                        if if if &
so on to infinity – if you were here.

*

riffing with Tom Raworth’s
Moving August 28th 2020
when nothing much has moved
hereabouts for 5 months

(the government’s been moved
to explain the situation
although we’re not told where
the government’s moved to)

((cf. the blank entered 10.59pm
June 5th 1970 which could be today
when ‘word’ recorded at 10.26
would be a word too many))

 



 

[Alan Halsey’s Selected Poems 1988-2016 is published by Shearsman. His latest book is Winterreisen, a collaboration with Kelvin Corcoran from Knives Forks & Spoons. The complete Remarks of Uncertain Consequence awaits a publisher. He is an Affiliated Poet at Sheffield University’s Centre for Poetry & Poetics.]

Copyright © 2021 by Alan Halsey, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.