Issue 16: John Welch


Its Text

Palladiums are where it rightly lives

Its text, box-fresh

Where happiness is a serious business,

But O the melancholia of being a camera

Where looking all round you might make you disappear.

Lip Service

Sung through pursed lips

Rain total, a scream at the ready

The planned

Metamorphosis of your stare.

Animals taken home in bags

Their blood streams out past you

Elasticity   is the holding together

Of all the conventions of pain.

Your hands are ripe, lips move

Soundlessly where you tread.

This fissure the street,

Is injury and its image.

Over the pavements go the unformed millions

Wearing away. An odd happiness

Slides in under the doors

Where you come to rest, in a

Room full of mirrors

A gallerist speaks

Sunrise, onto particulars –

Through a skylight

A passing cloud watches.

Art shavings are being curated,

Lapsed cloth-sign in a corner,

A gallery’s trapped air.

Significant art moments

Are looking in at themselves

What else was there, in the absence of a cure?

The Way Ahead?

Raising the structure, abandoning it

He waits for the meaning to seep in

Unfolding the flower in his lap,

The firm impress of his prose

A scurrying in the bushes.

The avant-garde’s a backward look

And it almost sounds like a translation –

Being carried across like this

To where exactly?

Carefully distressed, its façade

A comfortable place to be behind,

Each poem like a small request

Whose Lyric Utterance

‘The enthusiastic audience listened carefully to the reading of informal letters from unknown people and then destroyed a huge symbolic writing-case’

Keeping wings next to yourself

And how many ounces of flight is the bird?

It was another life, the one I had.

Finding I don’t believe in it after all

I go back to bed, her quiet breathing’s beside me.

Yes, couples do take refuge in one another

And it might be a kind of relief, setting it down at last.

You can just catch the sound of it, as it collapses

That whole remote apparatus.

The Bravado

A bravado of sky

& the words, how they carry themselves.

I’ll do your waiting for you.

For that I have been granted an extra name.

The cringing process I travel to be near

‘Why haven’t we heard of this man?’

No it wasn’t the sound of somebody falling.

Someone looks into the matter.

An aeroplane lifts its head

Slowly over the town, the bridges bow

Or bow. As I’m carried off

I never had a style, or even a ‘true voice’.

When I looked all around me

Perhaps I was the panopticon.

The mirror stops me seeing. Without it

I am an emptiness at the centre.

Someone is running away from his heartland.

Exhausted but still awake.

Keeping one step ahead of revelation

You really should write a book about it –

All that richness, as you approach

This potential. But as you get closer

The language seems to evaporate

Like a sweat of desire. It goes to a shimmer

Or like writing on a coin, its shallow glare.

It gives you a leg to stand on.

Here they come on their bound feet

Waving broken hands.

Look back at the dream, you are in it.

Your body is only a memory.

Still seeking forgiveness

Perched here, up on the roof I’ll write about it.

To possess is to be possessed

When looking all round me I’d gained another head.

It was a lonely seizure,

An awkward consecration.

Born in 1942 John Welch lives in London. From 1975 to 2002 he ran a poetry publishing imprint, The Many Press. Shearsman published his Collected Poems in 2008; two more collections have appeared since then. For some years he collaborated with the London-based Iraqi poet Abdulkareem Kasid on translations of his work, and in 2015 their versions appeared from Shearsman, titled Sarabad.


Copyright © 2016 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.