It’s hard for Alan Britt’s poetry to sneak up on you. It’s like a diesel tractor, full of snorts and groans and clanging parts. A few years ago we heard him all the way in Dallas—a poem about Cuba in Ilya’s Honey. Britt came out of the old Hopkins Writing Seminars in the Sixties, when an M.A. in poetry could keep you out of Vietnam. Recently we got together for a beer at one of Reisterstown’s fancy after-hours mingling joints. We were the only ones at the bar wearing rings, and he was the only one wearing sweat pants as if he’d jogged over to meet me. Always in the middle of something else, Britt perfects his incessant bark in one of Baltimore’s bedroom communities, and teaches at Towson University. He has been translated into Spanish for several Communist weeklies while his poems about 9-11 have been read at patriotic Freedom Tower events. This year he published his twelfth book of poems. Congratulations Alan, now I’ll have to shoot you.
Never saw my hometown ‘till I stayed away too long.
Never heard cymbals rattle the lackadaisical slats
of my dining room blinds
on windy afternoons either.
You might think
the Age of Innocence,
if such a thing ever existed,
but I’m telling you
at the opera
with Groucho mugging Nazis in drag.
Never heard a guitar
sound like that one before,
like a loon
trapped inside a surreal kaleidoscope.
Never saw the old dirt road either,
with my older brother
and older cousin on horseback
kicking up clods
of dark innocence,
disguised as two happy young men.