About Alan Reynolds

Poet born and raised in North Carolina and now after a sojourn in England a long-time resident of the Netherlands. More than 4,000 poems, many published in US and UK literary magazines and on CD and in books.

What I Know

My mind is by definition what I know.
Or is it? Do by ‘mind’ I mean my world?
Two selves, both mine, are not disposed to go
through one door. They did once. A flag unfurled

and ushers of a potentate or prince
rushed me along a corridor to meet
my fate. Or someone’s. New found evidence
suggests that the deaths recorded were too neat

an explanation for the dying fall
of joy. Where was I? Hopefully, not there.
In fact I was. I had to watch it all.
Or was that fiction, when the raging bear

tore me, both of me, into what you see:
a mind encumbered by reality?

Home Demolition

The demolition of the old house, less sad today
as it progresses so far we do not recognise
the home it was, reminds you, you say, of how old people
get by the years deprived of what they were
until when they eventually depart
what dies with them is not enough to grieve.

‘You are young,’ I answer. ‘You are fixated on the world
of appearances that young eyes find important.
A pimple or a wrinkly weathered skin
is what you see and think that’s all of life.
The spiritual, if ever, arrives late.
All souls take time to learn to meditate
and, unconcerned with ego, to align
themselves with the notes enriching Nature’s tunes.’

Upwardly Mobile Middle Class

We sat out the last hanging. We’d gone inside
for a glass of bubbly something and a snack.
Once you’ve seen so many gallows birds swing wide
it’s a given probably that one more will lack

the drama justifying standing up
and paying attention. And yet this plump hors d’oeuvre
provokes in me a sense of throwing up
my hands. You’d think our sous chef could manoeuvre

some better grub for all the cash we’re paying.
‘Here’s to us,’ I toast, ‘and to rolling in new money!’
The majordomo strides up. He is saying
(while you and the others look at me all funny)

as he presents me with a hemp noose and an urn,
‘Hurry! Hangman’s waiting! It’s your turn!’

Dream without Hollywood Ending

The night is bright. We dance the Green Chihuahua.
China saucers of Bacardi break and spill
across the rolling deck, slide overboard.
You are three parts blissful lightning, four parts cloud.
Nobody’s needs are noticed. Music swells.
Someone is singing shanties. You claim it’s me.
I say Aye Aye in Urdu. A tall wave
breaks over the bow. The chilling sluicing foam
plays havoc with the deckchairs, clears the deck
of the less light-footed dancers, including us.

The Olding Man’s Retirement

He had retired, a long-expected dream.
Not one he’d liked, but still it had occurred,
and now, instead of generating steam
for projects where he had the final word
and spending evenings building up his team,
he waked when he could sleep, and found absurd
his days containing only three events,
unless he counted going to the Gents.

He tried to paint, a vagabond from rules
he’d built for thirty years, but could not draw
the curtains yet. He’d founded schools
for analysing worlds, but could not claw
his way with chalk. His sketches looked like drools
debility might bring to him. His flaw
was that his visions failed to make the paper.
He threw his easel out, a useless caper.

He joined a gym to taper down his waste
and exercised his options to get fit.
The girls he met there showed no urgent haste
to join him in his exercise, emit
admiring ooh la la’s. They were not chased
by hormones in his case. No need to flit
about and waste a ‘hi’ — this wispy weighting lad
was old enough to be their uncle’s dad.

He persevered, with moxie built from years
of start-ups masterminded, funds and all,
by his enthusiastic drive. With cheers
and grunts he hailed the savage wake-up call
he’d set himself for five. He gave up beers
and fatty foods, embraced a volleyball,
and sallied forth with quotas as of old.
It lasted fifteen days. He caught a cold.

Recuperating fast, he took up games
limiting himself on purpose to just three.
All games he’d played, he still knew all their names
and half their rules. He paid the entrance fee
required for each sport’s club, and suffered shames
he hadn’t know before. He couldn’t see
four moves ahead. This forced him to confess
he’d lost his touch, or never had finesse.

A sailing yacht soon tied up at his dock.
He put on Mephisto boat shoes every dawn
and polished brass and teak until the clock
announced with bells across his perfect lawn
the cocktail hour. He buffed the starboard chock
before he took a drink. It made him yawn
and wonder what it was he felt he’d lost
now he was free and quiet. No longer boss.

Beaming

It is when he’s pressed for answers that he shines:
a lifetime’s training in escape combines
with natural talent to whisk him away
from what the question was, and in this way
he entertains all his interrogators
and tones along the way their corrugators
with mental gym and mirrors and the sway
of curtains which he draws so night bests day.
He draws attention to how columbines

inverted look like clusters of small doves
and so without a comma or full stop
he leads us sometimes laughing to the line
he does not draw or cross, but walks its fine
thin point-to-point until the crowd goes home
and he does too, to burnish all his chrome
until his plate and mirrors gleam and shine
to where not even he can find a sign
of what it is he cares about and loves.

State of the Union Menu

‘What you need,’ said the Dragon, ‘is a way to eat your poor.’

‘We already have that, but it’s indirect,’
the Senator answered, wiping off his chin.

‘We bleed them with low pay or, better, none.
When they weaken, we brand “lazy” on their foreheads.

Those who die out deserve to. Not insured.

After I left it, we added the middle class
to our menu. Strangely, we have less to eat.

Just you and me, eh, Dragon. Who blinks first?’

A Modern and Unlikely Odyssey

The hero pocketed the money
and handed over the keys
to what had been his family’s home
since Romulus created Rome.
The hero now felt free to roam
having given up his ease.

All his money he distributed
to anyone who asked.
All that he kept hung on his back:
a sword, some cheese in a gunnysack
and a book of prayers most others lack
among the hero caste.

He wandered, loitered, stood all lonely
till he took himself in hand
and, finally finding his own way,
went resolutely to the quay
where a ship fresh in from Mandalay
disembarked a van.

Inside the van a wizened woman
smiled at the hero’s gaze.
He tried to smile – it was not his style –
and after staring blank a while
he asked himself what female guile
put his mind in a daze.

The woman, wistful, watching, wondered
who like a fool stood there,
seemingly vanquished by a van.
Her Odyssey required a man
strong and stupid, a type she ran
into everywhere.

But then he spoke. The woman marvelled
at his honeyed words.
It was as if her van were filled
with raptures queens would have been thrilled
to hear, and as if dragons were killed
by bronze beating swords.

‘Ahoy!’ she cried, rolled down the window.
She trilled, ‘Want a ride?’
The hero, startled, murmured, ‘Rather.’
Stalling so her wits could gather
she engaged him in palaver
to get him stuck inside.

The woman engaged the van’s ignition
so as to hide her zest.
She unlocked the door, cried, ‘All aboard!’
The hero hopped in then she floored
the accelerator. The van roared
like a vehicle possessed.

Away from the quay and through the village
the racing van careened.
The hero, grovelling till that made
him remember he’s the hero, said,
‘I say, let’s call this shovel a spade.’
The wizened woman gleaned

that travel with a hero’s sweeter
when she can’t hear him chatter.
She grins and steers the van and keeps
count of the souls its bumper reaps
while the hero’s story soars and sweeps
unheard in the van’s hoarse clatter.