Alistair Noon


The Evolutionary Record

I heard you late last night,
mumbling into my ear,
then shuffling about without a light
but so that I could hear.

I saw you in the morning
upside down inside
the wardrobe. Without warning
I struck, but I struck wide.

You hurtled about the room
and halted at the wall,
where now Darwin would loom,
loom, move in and fall.

Now, wherever I look,
I see that fatal thud:
your corpse clutching my book,
and inscribed on the walls, my blood,

and maybe we’ll meet in the rocks
one day, pressed between stages,
the strata like printer’s blocks,
and us the missing pages.


—Esther 1

It is a tiring thing
to be on call to a king,
especially one as vain as
my ex, Ahasuerus.
With provinces aplenty
(last count: one hundred and twenty)
whose territorial scope
was Ind to Ethiop,
he decreed there be a feast
for a hundred days at least,
one for the prince of each province,
all costs of course the sovereign’s.
A wonderful waste of wealth,
and with, if I say it myself,
a successful color scheme
of blue and white and green.
My lord, topped up with wine,
asked “Where’s that queen of mine?”
But conversation’s art is
as tiring as planning parties
for your husband’s bloated minions
from a hundred-odd dominions,
so I just took the day off.
O king, you got all wroth
and sent for your seven-man
response team. Menucan
it was who led the debate:
“Her crime not only infringes
the rights of kings and princes
but every husband’s off in his
one of your hundred-plus provinces.
Let her lose her royal estate.”
And the king was very pleased
and dashed off five decrees.

Recalling my career
as queen, one thing was clear:
whatever time I rose,
one was sometimes indisposed,
at least that is the way
I thought of it that day
I did not give a fuck.
Message to Esther: good luck.

Alistair Noon‘s most recent publications are Two Verse Essays (Longbarrow Press, 2022) and two further volumes of his Osip Mandelstam translations, The Voronezh Workbooks and Occasional and Joke Poems (Shearsman Books, 2022); his next collection is Paradise Takeaway (Two Rivers Press, October 2023). Alistair’s poems, reviews, and translations have appeared in Poetry Wales, Poetry Review, The Guardian, and New Statesman, as well as two collections from Nine Arches Press and a dozen chapbooks from various presses. He lives in Berlin.