Issue 16: John Welch
INSIDE THE PANOPTICON
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.
Sung through pursed lips
Rain total, a scream at the ready
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.
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.