Monday, 25 February 2013

Three Poems by John Welch

John Welch, Whose Breaths
. . . and our words turn and fall
flickering with our life upon the earth.
                                                Andrew Crozier

The last Rastafarian, a lonely tribal singer.
There are women with armfuls of children.
The god is a floating cargo.

The burden was somewhere in front of me,
Shone, lazily. Stepping out
Into a hidden romance of storms

The absence that there is in me
Was what I found to celebrate,
A fresh quiet smell. Shallow epiphany

To have found it again intact,
The thoughtful container,
Its shifting stain of consciousness.

On the lip of its
Creatureliness, to live
Without consolation?

The poem ending it happens again and again
Like hearing from far off the sound of land,
Speech acts the saviour

As if we imagined returning
The things to their proper names,
The plainness of our speech being fed to earth.

John Welch, The Repair

And the rest of his life? It’s not as if he were reading
A not very adequate translation
When seeing round the words he thinks he can just make out
The original, where it busies itself
With cooking, sorting papers, arranging flowers.
As he watched one opened like the remains of an eye.

Out walking today on the Heath
The tree harbours a wound.
It glistens and dries where he stands
On a hill and looks at London—
‘It was daylight left me here, making signs,
And here are the words that almost found me.’
He’d imagined how they might all come down
In one enormous descending
As the cracked tree’s lightning-self
Once held to that split in the light, and standing here
Art gives him the illusion of being.
He is filling the wound with sounds.

John Welch, ‘In Riots of the Upper Air’
For Fawzi Karim
Your poem, here it halts in English
And they say the language speaks you. So is this a trap?
As for me I seek to stretch out in these spaces
Made by exile’s peculiar travel
As if I too spent my life between here and there,
Between the blossom and its fall.
Walking out of the dentist’s and into the street
My tongue explores the damage.
I’m stiffer with age walking around in a city.
Can someone tell me the name of the procession
Passing these trees
As if they had just landed on the earth?
Trying to discover the secret of their balance,
A certain silence springs out from each trunk
As somewhere another bomber
Lifts, slow as a statue, away from its plinth of shadow –
Another dictator past his sell-by date,
A government discovering righteousness?
Being shaken with useless rages
We wonder how not to do harm
Like trailing a broken branch.
Here is a bush of white flowers in flattish clusters,
A harsh honeyish smell that I recognise
But cannot name. Unreal the hiss of blossom.

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