Friday, June 11, 2010

The Colour of Earth ~ C. J. Allen

Greenland isn’t green, in fact
it’s mostly brown. Similarly the White Cliffs
of Dover are a stained ash-colour scumbled
with khaki and copper. Red
China is mostly beige and the Ivory Coast
is raw sienna. Siena is lemon
and pink overlaid with pale blue,
its streets full of people like flecks of multi-colour
in tweed. Vienna, which should be cream,
has been re-done in taupe and pale-stone.
The great silver mountains of Peru shine
like patent leather and the gel-like sky
over Ireland is exactly the same colour as the soap
in the bathrooms of the Alexander Hotel
in Dublin. The rest of Dublin is coffee,
except the Liffey, of course, which is bile.
The Nile is never the same colour
from one moment to the next,
while the Thames takes on the untreated-sewage
tones of London, until it gets to Richmond where it begins
to look like it’s made out of melted coins.
Rome was purple once, but cleaned up
has the disappointing lustre of wholemeal bread.
Athens and Las Vegas
share the same vibrant palette, and Paris
is cast-iron until you get really close,
when it starts to scintillate like chips of mica in asphalt.
Reykjavik is the most colourful city on earth
but the people who live there are so accustomed to it
they don’t actually notice
the black sand, the blue hydro-thermal pools
or the tan mud. They paint their roofs
every shade under the sun, and the scuffed, chalky gulls
and rainbow puffins hang above them in air
so pure it’s like a glass of cold water
held up to the light.

C. J. Allen’s poetry has appeared in a wide range of magazines & anthologies in the UK, USA, Ireland & elsewhere. His work has been awarded prizes in a number of competitions, including the Arvon, Ilkely, Yorkshire, Winchester, Ver Poets, Nottingham Open & Kent & Sussex, amongst others. He has published four collections of poetry – The Art of Being Late for Work (Amazing/Colossal Press, 1994), Elfshot (Waldean Press, 1997), How Copenhagen Ended (Leafe Press, 2003), & his most recent, A Strange Arrangement: New & Selected Poems, again from Leafe Press (

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