Issue 3: John Welch

‘Even clean hands damage surfaces.’

The soar of the human figure

The uncompromising thrust it makes

the fight it carries on with the force of gravity

        [David Smith, quoted at his show at Tate Modern 2006-07]

Thin flat forest   lumpy bird

Art shared out among the millions

They arrive   with their awkward bodies

Bodies that  strive to be different

Clay’s mystic mess, the garden of forms

‘This work and I whole nights together’

And now a sculpture, where it stands,

Among its seeming-still of shadows

There was water stretching in front, narrative glitter

Something came, breaking the surface –

And after so much silence

It arrived like a small mountain

Starting in on it

We could see the game it was playing

 ‘I’m making a name for myself up here.’

As the day gives out light shrinks to where we are

A plain prose surface, a comfortable-seeming

‘As if it were a city I’d befriended’

Imagine walking through it,texting the dead

But arriving at the event there was nobody there

Just these enormous empty photographs

And a world as if it knew itself without us

Its careful scatterings of leaves

Still, we survived the event

Here in the city we made, sculpture our fetishised sadness

Tate Modern 2006-07

at home

Low trees bus drivers beware

Poor cornered animal

The face shines clear

Always read the label     grief

The way the other might

Return you to yourself

Anyway why do you need all those tunes?

A bird’s quizzical stare

And your life, a sort of

Half-hearted quest

Waking from time to time, to a

Happiness you hardly dare to touch?

And finds a

Kind of ground, to practise here being grateful

Out walking early was the best of it

Walking through London

As if the city

Breathed itself towards you

As if language a membrane were flexible

& the night leaning in

Like an intake of breath

Past the leaves that shelter my window –

Leaves of a strong-growing vine

With its useless ‘nephews’

Sirens are safely outside

A fox is calling

Too many words

Abrade the silence

Upbraid the silence?

Imagine the special part

And I only wanted to listen

To what the others see

As if we were travelling

All with one common purpose

Your gentle storm of breath in my ear

And the wind trying hard all night

Maybe I’m in the words like a thumbprint

At home in my strangeness

John Welch lives in Hackney in London. His Collected Poems were published by Shearsman in 2008.

Copyright © 2009 by John Welch, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.