Issue 6: John Welch
1. Floating Cargo
Cheshunt to Broxbourne and back
Like this beside the water
Does bring a certain kind of peace.
Discarded blossom lies along the surface,
All this stuff that’s drifting down
And a powerful scent of elder
Whose musk is edged with sweetness.
People you pass are not quite sure
Whether or not to greet you
And here’s a sort of bollard,
It’s like an abandoned phallus.
Trees have that hint of greyness,
Sunlit upturned leaf drama
Against a dark threat of sky.
You carry on, through surprising groves
Putting some distance under your feet
Till, breaking into the open
Space of a silent field, there are
And what’s this shrub with whitish flowers,
Its musty-spermy smell?
You turned back to that waterside
Whose floating cargo of blossom
Was almost as motionless as text
2. Near Guiting Power
Used as title, a taking possession,
It does have this ‘watch-me-doing-this’ aspect
Like a man with that falsely knowing expression
As if, looking self-consciously relaxed,
He has, briefly, rediscovered the joys of reading.
But the hedgerow flail has been this way
Leaving twigs like the chopped ends of thumbs
And a bird in the mist is making a gargling sound.
Things unseen beckon, as we move on
Head down into the wind. The Cotswolds
Is well-behaved children on well-behaved horses.
It’s probably the English Tuscany,
Wealth carefully hidden behind the trees
Like that Roman villa in Spoonley Wood
Gone now to a heap of stones.
The villa is ‘real’, the mosaic
A Victorian fake, under an old tarpaulin.
Out in the open again
And the furtive sound of an unseen plane
It’s the details that still have the power
To make you happy – that cotoneaster
Flaring out over a wall, red berries
And dense, bare almost feathery twigs,
These solitary trees, stock still
As if they were the substance of our thought.
3. After De Tabley
So, the surprise of nothing being found
the pupil shrinks in so much light
and our restlessness, against
an odd still sea
its peculiar deeps and blues –
Danger Of Death
When the reader gets up from the book
it is as if almost in paradise
and still there is that expanse before him
imagining it an audience
and it saying ‘I want every inch of you’
but he has no name to find it with
but why should words help,
what is beyond
like a brooch
but awkwardly, at his side.
and how the night becomes us
when you’ll fit me like a glove,
you and I
meticulous graveyard of speech.
Wounded for survival
He kept the wound fresh, it will
Last till morning in the dream-furrow,
Dawn’s chorus, in his throat
To glisten and stir, in that
Grey light-watery place?
There’s last night’s shattered windscreen’s glass
When houses were so still in streetlamp glare
But how remote that fracture
Daytime makes normal, stepping out
As brisk as this from doorway,
The glass one tidy heap of fragments.
‘The places where I left myself
Are what I cannot find,
Well-practised in an art of lying still
And in the act of taking
Flight being always when you’ll
See me in my finest plumes
I’ll come back with my heap of words
Glinting in the sun.
The car has gone but they remain.’
Born in 1942, John Welch lives in Hackney in London. His Collected Poems appeared from Shearsman in 2008, and in 2009 Shearsman published a new collection Visiting Exile. He has recently been working with the Iraqi poet Abdulkareem Kasid on English versions of the latter's poems. Some of these can be seen on Intercapillary Space and Shadowtrain, and in Poetry London and The North.