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.

Sirhowy Valley

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.

Wooden Cardiff

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)

Metal Cardiff

bridges (again)

and iron rail on wood

the four factories w/ fire

outside the town now not

who would have predicted?

barge bollard

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)

What For?


Glory on trains

Difficulty surmounted

Fixing the sliding 


Small fame

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

Folk melody 


Unexpected victory

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 Towers

The Viking Street

The lost watercourses

The buried canal

The place of martyr burning

The drinking cups of the aldermen

The staithes

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 stains

The wear

The dust

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.

Coal City

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.