Huw Gwynn-Jones comes from a line of published poets in the Welsh bardic tradition, though he denies ever having worn a druidic robe. He began writing as a retirement project shortly after moving to Orkney, since when his work has appeared in Acumen, Tears in the Fence, Marble Poetry, Amethyst Review, Drawn to the Light, Deich and Obsessed with Pipework. His debut pamphlet, ‘The Art of Counting Stars’, was published in October 2021.
Red Ball Rising
Low-slung, bell-hung place in the belly’s
hollow, all clang and fear this feeling,
this feel – all trick and no treat to follow
your pinballed rage, your tilt.
Listen garret rat, let pandemonium
have its sip, that loathful little twist
you take with whisky sour, the fateful sense
that there is no artist but a piss-artist
and you, my friend, are his scribe.
When you’re young and a stick insect, you quickly learn
to watch out for gulls, especially the ones with the mark
of blood on their beaks, jaws that can swallow an ice cream
whole and pluck the skin from your scrawny teenage back.
So you dream of a future, immortality, retribution
in a flowing cape, Spiderman or the Bat, or even Captain
Four Eyes – heroic kid with specs who knows everything
yet understands nothing at all, like what to do with his tongue
in that clumsy first kiss and why people never listen –
you’ll do as we say while you’re under our roof –
or in different dream why people are still trying
to change you – be like others they say, be easier
talk about football, beer or women. Until the day
you get up for a run and find that your feet are moving
to a rhythm all their own, and see, you’re soaring now,
higher than any bird has ever flown, held up by glee
and self-belief, a sense that spoons will bend
and lean in towards you, that all things are possible
so long as you keep an eye out for gulls and that lesser-known
deity, Nemesis, Goddess of Retribution.
After John Berryman
his seabound life
waterlogged in death
inching the harbour floor
from one moon’s sliver
to the next
until whistled up
crablike from the sediment
by the last steamship
of a January day.
They never found
1 Having gone missing on Boxing Day 1897, My Great Grandfather,
a retired mariner, surfaced In Holyhead harbour exactly a month later.
After John Burnside
Henry came back
from the dead
his beard dry
and quite well-groomed
for a man who’s just
spent a month
drifting with kelp
and bladderwrack –
it’s not too bad once
you get to know the place
though you do have to keep
your eyes shut much of the time
or the crabs will have them.
He’s getting on a bit now
given up his night watch-man’s job –
too cold and raw
for his mudsoft skin –
so he spends his time
on Zoom with grandchildren
round the globe and working
on a book of seafood recipes.
His dressed crab salad
is to die for.
£1000 the statement said – another scam. But who on earth
would go to Prague to spend a grand on jeans, I wondered,
straight-cut or spray-on, even if they were by Calvin Klein?
OK – there was Paul. That thing he had for denim – seventy
pairs he told me once. Just couldn’t resist a deal or the call
to accessorize – the belt, the boots, all that cool stitching –
though when it came to hoarding, Imelda was queen of them all.
They say she used to sing to people at elections, but mainly
she collected. Three thousand pairs of shoes, though she
would insist it was never more than eleven hundred. Cardin,
Gucci, Ferragamo, not to mention those delicious mink coats.
She even had a phone in the shape of an elegant shoe.
I wonder if she used it to croon to Ferdinand and all
the adoring crowds from her long exile in Hawaii:
“Choose me love me,
there’s no place for you
hold me shine me,
never let me go”.
A bit like the old Nat King Cole song.
Now that was a keeper.