Issue 25: Peter Finch
The Last Trump
Afterwards the robes we wore looked like so many cloths
blowing up the streets in the wind. I’d been
warned that this new insight would be
too great and the converted would show a huge
insecurity by staying in public houses checking with
one another that God really was God by drowning
him again and again.
Afterwards the queues of those with one language
and the timewasting stuttering at tourist traps
throughout the lands would vanish like drowned
valleys, a great universal praise rising up like
oil dispersant foaming on the incoming tide.
Afterwards the dead druids of Môn would all
come back and be so much better than us at
everything. They would sing and fish would be
mesmerised. They would know where the Roman’s
had left their hoards. They would fire up the
foreign cottages just by touching.
Afterwards we would so much miss our insecurity
and our lack of those things that made us
that through the floods of sospan fach yn berwi
ar y rhywbeth we would again go dark and
silent. Give us our dampness and our strange
heart attacks. There is only one heaven.
North of Rogerstone on the
canal drip of the Sirhowy Valley
the houses backing
this algae flytrap celebrate
outdoor life with permanent
barbies and patios onto
which the drizzle falls at the
Rising Sun with no sun visible because of
anvil head cumuli the path goes
up through the bog leaf mould of
Coed Mawr woods.
Here Dwr Cymru are routing
a main drain gouge the trees
drop the yellow pipe stuff it all
back scar of contractual restitution
for at least a year
all this for faster shit beyond
lies Mynedd Machen
radio mast and bracken thin
man smoking with a greyhound
do this next.
Truth and Petroleum
Between 00.46 and 00.53 of rain
this hour, metasequoia bending,
wreck of gunnera, worm casts melted back
to grass root. Schwitters said truth was a
liquid, he said petroleum I think drizzle,
comes out of you when you drill for it
never emerges on its own, not quite.
I find mine all over me mornings like
I’ve been out in a storm wipe it screw
the rag let certainty drip down the basin
pipe. Such a real pipe. Never
pretends. My hands get wet with
truth, can only touch that which actually
happens nothing else, dreams are just smoke.
When it gets like this living becomes an
unmistakable cold fish. The moss greens
up out of the gap between the flags,
draws itself, bends over loose gravel.
Who’ll get in this gully next, the falling
river or the luminous emerald reality?
Tell the truth streaming pathway, what
next, so important. I squeeze some more
truth out my eyes. I can do this
seemingly endless. Keep going.
Eventually it’ll all be gone.
Poem reduced to a single stanza to make it suitable for the future
Most modern (post dada) magnetic tape (type) systems use reels (rolled) that are much smaller (smiler) than the old (old) 10.5 inch (failure) open (old) (older) reels and are fixed (facilitated) (fornicated) (philosophised) inside a cartridge (cartilage) (cholesterol) (corrugated) to protect (precept) the tape (bend) and facilitate (erect) (failure) (fantasy) handling (holding). A tape drive (death) or transport (triumvirate) or deck (depressed) (dildo) (dub) uses precisely (presently) (pleasant) controlled motors to wind (wind) (wind) the tape (age) (augmented) (old) from one reel (real) (rip) (risk) to the other (older), passing (pressing) (pissing) a hard (hold) (head) (heat) (hold) (old) (old) (older) read/write (real right) as it does. Modern (modem) cartilage (cartridge) formats (firmament) (filament) include fade, fix, fume, and already. Already is of larger incidence. Age is an absolute must.
Ways To Get To God Expanded
ablutions, assassinations, scarifications, scaremongerings, prostrations, recitations, conversations, righteous interjections, confessions, conflagrations, petitions, entreaties, supplications, multiple repetitions, meditations, devotions, mediations, contemplations, ornamentations, infusions, fermentations, elevations, visitations from archangels, mystic channelers and hoary empaths, delivery of boulders and great books, the taking of tablets, the arrival of fire, the holding aloft and hearing great chanting, coupons, draining of blood, self-flagellations, all five of the five aggregates, SAE to Department One, Keynsham, Bristol, call from Arnold Bloxham, shimmering luminosity, peeling away, sustained reduction, renunciation, purification, oneness, deity visualisation, plaster of Paris, carved oak, paper mâché, stigmata holy wounds, tears of blood, great seepings, shimmerings, slip-slidings and scourings, red rivers, rock rivers, rush of pain, no pain, tutelary spirits, power animals, success in urology next test 12 months, enervations, prostrations, antipathy, shutting the mouth, stopping thought, nothingness, apophatic chanting, the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight the sight of uncreated light.
Gwaelod y Garth to
Taff’s Well river bridge now stone
Sleeprs in back gardens
balconies on Whitchurch mansions
firewood bundles stacked on pavemnt (rare)
circular garden green huts for the hospital residents
now mostly defunct
flagpole (no flag)
(in Cardiff the trees are usually made of wood)
(after Paul Fournel’s Suburbia)
and iron rail on wood
the four factories w/ fire
outside the town now not
who would have predicted?
Whitchurch wrought sunburst
the armoury of the militia
road surfaces (new) after the horse
manure & mud scrape smelt absent
(in Cardiff the smells have been absent
for some time)
Glory on trains
Fixing the sliding
Many lights no lights sheets of darkness specks of rain
Great renown like a man with arms
with a box file that runs for days
Parts one to twenty-eight (1-28)
A Memorial Water Poem for Rawlins White
Rawlins on water
Rawlins taking the tide
Rawlins dousing the holy
Rawlins sliding the river
Rawlins forcing the oar
Rawlins embroiled with fish
Rawlins henged five times in Roath Manor
Rawlins his ship his ship his ship in the sinking mud off the Rhymney mouth
Rawlins the wooden wet with incandescence
Rawlins sweating the Protestant Bible through his pores
Rawlins the unrecantable, the fear soaking his chest
Rawlins faith battering the weirs
Rawlins the light in his eyes and the tears
Rawlins the storm the canvas whipping his arms
All water impinges onto each drop
& each water to every drop
& every water to each drop
& all water to every drop
& all drops to each water
& all water to all water
Every holy drop
City Verse in The Time of Covid
The contest was for a long poem and that to be about the city. The administrator was against this choice, but it was the only one the art department of the city’s administration would countenance. There were many forms to complete in advance. Diversity. Disentanglement. Innovation. Employment of local people. Gender balance. Disbursement of excess. Copyright. Fish. Co-funder (not essential but, of course, entirely essential). Safety and Health. Risk analysis. Risk potential. Use of risk amelioration in case of external factors beyond the council’s control. Declaration of Dangerous Substances avoidance. Liability. Loutishness. Legacy. These were countersigned, dated, distributed, filed unread but filed. The city had a whole department under the command of a bi-lingual lifeguard to manage storage and retrieval. Although there was little of the latter. The poem unwound beautifully across the tundra of the parks and through the sparsely populated socially distanced streets in a scree of simmering couplets, lascivious limericks and pulsing palindromes
The Viking Street
The lost watercourses
The buried canal
The place of martyr burning
The drinking cups of the aldermen
The bear pits
The vanished pitches and their reuse as parade grounds
The secret tunnels
The parkland railways
The transatlantic piers
The great hall of the people
The winner was a woman from a little-known street in the south of the city where the food recycling caddies regularly got trashed. Her picture smiling appeared full colour in the local paper. She had never won anything before, she declared. There was to be a song made of her winning verses, but as public interest soon diminished and administrative costs rose this plan was allowed to lapse. Several months later part of the work appeared as an appendix to an annual report (available only as pdf) but by then the city had once again started shining.
There are two ways of describing this city, at least two. I shall take one by the horns. There is a run of towers, all made from wood and assembled with dowels. They run south to north east in chord that cuts the city’s arc. They act as stands from which to observe the rough rugby that takes place on the city’s many pitches. These games, if games they be, are always best observed from above. One of the bridges that carries access tracks bears a painted replica of the ancient days when there was only a single stadium and that of low capacity. The men depicted have sideburns and handlebar moustaches.
In the subdivisions of the streets spread out below like Nasa photographs of Mars the men of the east often fight with those from the west. They dispute ownership and language. Their histories, they avow, are not the same. Drink sold from back rooms and street corners flows like the rivers.
In the north they keep their books in gapless stacks against the outer walls of their stone-built houses. Their fuel bills are light. I had a girlfriend from these latitudes once who told me that I was only interested in Jack Kerouac and talked of little else. It was a reasonable assumption at that time but now I have the ways this place works running in my blood.
The city has generating sheds in its south west. These places smoke and scream. They endlessly light the skies with fire. They fill the air with grime, smudge, smuts, smog, smoulders, smoke, stain, steam, cinder, slag motes and ash. They have made the city, they know they have.
The centre of the city has many statues of the famous, often rendered astride their horses, bearing arms, holding binoculars. These reminders of ancient greatness, honour and obligation are, for most part, ignored by the lumpen. Their permanence has generated their invisibility.
To the south for a whole century there were black trucks, stacks, streams, streaks, dumps, and great bunds lining the docks used for loading. The workers spent their days filling themselves with the dust and their nights coughing it back. Nobody ever imagined it could end and now it has with no trace even in the tightest of cracks between the buildings no one can recall its name. There is an artwork near a place where there once was an oval dock that tries with its pit props and its lists of evocative resonating names but the substance itself makes no appearance. It is not spelled nor spoken. Fumbled. Lost.
On the way out where the light clothes of the visitors are still light and their hands as pink as when they were born questionnaires are completed. Surveys done. Why did you come? What drew you? What did you like most, are asked. The gaiety, they reply. And what made this place? To date no correct answer to that has ever been given.
The Cardiff Giants
After Francois Rabelais and the origin of the great Pantagruel
And the first was Aulus Plautius
Who begat Publius Ostorius Scapula, that with his blade drew down Caratacus
Who begat Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Who begat Macsen Wledig, that with his breath kept the sea from flooding
Who begat Geraint
Who begat Peredur
Who begat Arthur, that had a line of stones along the ridge in Preseli, and two islands filled with seabirds in the roaring channel
Who begat Cei
Who begat Owein, that invented the stratofortress
Who begat Morgan Mwynfawr, that traded in sofas enough for an entire kingdom
Who begat Iestyn
Who begat William de Berkerolles
Who begat Melan, that was given to monastic silence and magic deeds elevating the capstone at Saint Lythans, a man lost to science, the bringer in of the flying saucers
Who begat Edern
Who begat Isan
Who begat Dionysius, that drank hard in a tavern near a well that gave off light at night and cured scrofula, Leishmaniasis, and breathing fevers simply by proximity with never the need of contact and as the ale he drank came made with these waters he also glowed at night
Who begat Ifor
Who begat Llewelyn
Who begat Gilbert de Umframville
Who begat Gilbert de Clare, that invented the voice of the town by adding blades to his tongue
Who begat Roger Mortimor
Who begat Jasper, the first inventor of the Rhymney River fishing henges that were later owned by Rawlins White the first giant martyr, still dead despite the plaques and the memorials and the talking of him with holy tongues each Whit Sunday.
Who begat Giraldus
Who begat Gilbert red of claw and bone, that invented night fight and breaking bones with glasses
Who begat Bawdrip, that dammed the flushing Kenelechau to see the mill wheels turning
Who begat William La Zouche de Mortimer,
Who begat Justice Hardinge
Who begat George Herbert
Who begat James Jim Jolly Howells
Who begat Nicholas Kemeys
Who begat William Deer, that invented rugby to enable the servants to rampage the countryside with impunity and draw some blood on the nose
Who begat Mathew
Who begat Richard Leigh
Who begat John Bachelor, that stood hard and stood and still stands
Who begat John Herbert
Who begat John Crichton Stuart, that was overcome by Catholic mist and flying dragons
Who begat Walter Coffin
Who begat John Jotham
Who begat Colonel Wood, that created the great deville full of fury and fire,
Who begat Charles Vachell
Who begat Charles Bradley,
Who begat Henry Spiller,
Who begat Charles Thompson
Who begat Tombola Strinati, the first that ever invented placing of meat flushed and rounded hot in a baked bun mix and thrashed about with ketchings, served half with imported rice and the second with potatoes sliced and heated in beef fat and who went on to create a vast fortune.
Who begat Thomas Revel Guest
Who begat Stanley Arthur Brain
Who begat Russell Vivian Goodway, the inventor of Duchenne smiling, and Lord Jack Brooks that created the desire for a great city that boosted the past and irradiating the future. Where we go still.
Peter Finch (b. 1947) has been at the forefront of Welsh poetry since the 1960s, when he founded and ran Second Aeon (1966-74), one of the most important small magazines and poetry presses of the era. From 1975 to 1998 he ran the Arts Council of Wales’s specialist Oriel Bookshop in Cardiff, and in the following decade was head of Academi, the forerunner of Literature Wales.
His work defies categorisation in its protean and energetic abundance, but it takes in Cobbingesque sound poetry, psychogeography, concrete poetry, the Blues, and performance works. Finch also has a considerable body of non-experimental work to his credit, exemplified in Zen Cymru (2010, Seren) and The Machineries of Joy (2020, Seren).
Peter is the editor of the Real series of city histories / studies, author of its four Cardiff titles; the Welsh capital, where he was born and has lived all his life, features much in his recent work. Major poetry collections include On Criticism (1984, Writers Forum), Make (1990, Galloping Dog), Antibodies (1997, Stride), Food (2001, Seren), The Welsh Poems (2006, Shearsman), and Selected Later Poems (2007, Seren). A two volume Collected Poems is currently being edited by Andrew Taylor of Nottingham Trent University for publication by Seren.