Poem introduction

'Incident on a Holiday' features the words forming the title of my 2001 book, The Cat Without E-Mail - the point made here is that human beings might be controllable by technology but animals like the cat and natural phenomena like fire are more elusive.

Incident on a Holiday

Incident on a Holiday

The cat between the tables is not worth attention,
But the most of us is closed in plastic now,
Magnetic so we stick to their powerful fingers.
I have to swipe to be a citizen.
I have to stand still while they target me.

Though one night on a coast of this vast and
Increasing inattention, a disco selling
Illusions to themselves for a sizable profit
Goes up in flames in the small hours
- A blaze of interest on the coast opposite.

In this hinterland, however, no one explains it,
Not even the backstreet barber, the big
Conspiracy theorist, who avoids my eyes
In his pocked mirror; or the extrovert licensee
Working faster but very quietly, mopping his bar;

Not even the check-out girl taking one by one
The grapefruit rolled down in a ritual
To break the boredom of her dreadful day
And start her chatting - she doesn't as much as smile
When I ask her, 'Who would trash a lovely disco?'

- And claim the insurance on all the pretty dreams?
What sort of destructive decency? There was
No cc-tv watching, no bar code beeped
When some unpoliced fingers scratched the match into flame.
And now there is a gap in the esplanade...

Though otherwise things go on pretty much the same:
The barber thanks me and tells me to Take Care,
The licensee puts my drink down - 'There you go!' -
The waters eject our pollution onto our shores,
And the cat, without e-mail, susses the customers

In the Sea Café, and refuses their burger bits.

from Collected Poems (Enitharmon, 2006), copyright © Alan Brownjohn 2006, used by permission of the author.

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2'In this city...'


3'We are going to see the rabbit...'


4Common Sense


5Office Party


6Balls of Sweetness


7Peter Daines at a Party


8The Packet


9Ballad of Scarlet and Black






12An Orchard Path


13From his Childhood


14Before the Game


15April Light


16Secrets from and with


17The Automatic Days - an extract


18Two Prospects of Adolescence


19In Moslodina










24On My 66th Birthday


25Incident on a Holiday




27The Presentation






30Found Object


1September 1939

2Sayings of the Utopians

3The Secret Hats

4A Day in 1966


6ANAC 2004


8A Scream in 1890

9His Morning I, His Morning II

10His Chivalry I, His Chivalry II

11His Breath-Test

12His Abstemious Phase I, His Abstemious Phase

13His Visit

14My Cricket

15The Dust

16Printshop 1922: A True Moment

17In the Emergency School

18Mr Banister

19A Bottle


21Are Etceteras No Things?

22The Way Down

23In Reykjavik



26Index of First Lines

27The Lights

28As No Art Is

29Christmas Scenario

Books by Alan Brownjohn