Alistair Noon

Alistair Noon | photo by Clare Jephcott

Alistair Noon’s first full-length collection, Earth Records (Nine Arches Press, 2012), was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. He’s also published a dozen chapbooks from various small presses, and had poems in World Literature Today, Jacket and Poetry Wales.

Originally from near London, UK, he’s lived in Berlin since the early nineties. His translations from the Russian of Osip Mandelstam have been widely published.

From Hellenic Post

The blue-shuttered house
listened to the melon-man
loud-hailing in Evro, wobbling
his pick-up single-handedly.

The blue-shuttered house
fed the salaried geraniums
and the day-labourer hibiscus
in the shade from the tower of owls.

The blue-shuttered house
sat beneath peaks,
watching the far side of the bay,
sipping the sunset headlands,

the yard an amphitheatre
of cicada soliloquies,
as the blue-shuttered house
listened to the crisis.


An earthrise slowly closing
from the lunar surface of the sea,
above us the gulls, below us the gills,
ridge, gully, ravine
slowly becoming clear.

The island immense, inevitable,
nearer and still not nearer,
a skyful of cirrus, history in the distance,
where Asius Hyrtacides
found a Hellenic spear.

At the feet of the mountains, the fields,
the first ragged clearings,
the scored streams wriggling to the sea,
the buildings basking by the shore,
the slopes becoming less sheer.

The ridges quite suddenly in focus,
but now my God what a drop.
We look for the door to the promised port.
Rocks like the skin of a dinosaur,
and there, some kind of pier.

The beaches write a white line
beside oh what are those trees.
The gulls return, the sea goes turquoise,
and then from behind the mountain,
as the keel begins to shear,

right there, a higher mountain.
It too slides out of the shadow.
The domes and masts, the balconies sharp.
The turbine slows and quietens.
The water calms. We’re here.


And then went down to the terminal,
dawn a low flame on the hob,
the beats of the last club still belting it out across the water,
the calls of the Dionysians blending with those of the owl,
young women loping home in stilettos.
The cats were already at the trash cans,
like a horde of clubbers with the munchies.
The cheerful lady in the baker’s at six.
The dog still dozing the night off,
the taxi drivers not yet on the picket line.
The wind turbines there on the hill,
the swifts were out in the brightening air,
and our postcards were in the system.
Poured we libations of frappé and ouzo,
did back-strengthening exercises.
Europa Palace was our craft, the trim-coifed goddess,
bars, restaurant, gym, ten floors.
Found space on deck for our sleeping bags,
passed on the overpriced salads,
we had provisions from the Sanctuary of Apollo Lidl.
The car decks still filling,
the semaphore signals and shouts of the overall crew
who would move us on at five in the morning
to hose down the deck, rust the great enemy.

Mountains round the bay, sardines in the big water.
We regretted the coach rides with Bonnie Tyler
and headed for Italy.

Poetry in this post: © Alistair Noon
Photo by Clare Jephcott
Published with the permission of Alistair Noon