Issue 6: John Welch

Three Walks

1. Floating Cargo

Cheshunt to Broxbourne and back

Walking steadily

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

Unmoving clouds

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

No Diving

No Jumping

                 the sea’s

steep syllables.

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

        Mid-afternoon, yes

   but why should words help,

   what is beyond

   this beckoning?

                         It had                

   fixed itself

   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.

Flight Reform

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.