November 1998

Gilbert Allen

Gilbert Allen Gilbert Allen's latest book is Commandments at Eleven (Orchises, 1994). He has published most recently in The Southern Review, Free Lunch, and The Lullwater Review. Allen grew up on Long Island and went to school at Cornell.   Since 1977 he's lived in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, and taught at Furman University.
The Church of Reasonable Doubt    Read Along with the Author

1. Trial

After a year and a day
the serfs free themselves
in four hours.
Ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent
guilty, so they spit

But today we celebrate
The Church of Reasonable Doubt!
Any live body in America
can join, regardless
of race, creed, sex
glove size or national celebrity.

Now we can return
to Another World.

2. Test

"It's medically impossible,"
he tells us,
"but you could be pregnant."

Assaulted by hope,
we're old enough to believe
in anything--

even this cell
that couldn't legally open
a beer till we've retired

even innocence
even this strange, reasonable creature
who's smiled before us already
with our own blood
on his hands.



Thought Tanks    Read Along with the Author

Their greatest grandfather was a stroke
of genius to end
World War One
in 1916.


Now, they stop whatever
steam locomotive has brought them
to this station, and bend
the rails
into their treads.

They overrun PBS
while nobody's looking

on the other side
of the glass.
In sharkskin
suits week after week after week
they stomach but never digest

William F. Buckley.

No water, no tank tops,
only these ivory turrets
of elephants, cursing the donkeys,
shooting the bull.



Brochure    Read Along with the Author

It's 86 degrees outside
and 99 percent
relative humidity.
But the au courant

within The Pegasus Hotel
this New Year's Eve will be flying
on frozen daiquiris, dry ice,
and air conditioning.

Leave Times Square to the lunatics!
See frost on jaborandi!
Bring string bikinis and your furs!
Our snow is cotton candy,

styrofoam and manna!
Winter in Guyana!



In Praise of Lions    Read Along with the Author

King of Beasts? My ass. Singular,
plural, they beat up on
lost babies and the straggling sick.
A Young Republican

of Kenya does spare the unborn,
whom she adores, but taste-
fully, without demonstrations,
regarding words a waste

of the grace before which all else
vanishes, like self-doubt.
Why apostrophize your future
blessings? Prides go about

their business. Lions purr
I love you, raw as you are.



Postcard from Purgatorio    Read Along with the Author

One married his Moll,
one gilded his Gonne,
both determined to mug
Her imagination.



Gilbert Allen: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review