Sunday, 27 July 2014

Within Chester's Walls

In the workshop earlier this month in Chester, (see previous post) 

we looked at the poetry of William Stafford, and considered 

themes of journey, remembered or imagined, returning, and being 


I included David Subacchi's evocative poems in the previous post. 

This time, there is work from Marigold Roy, Maureen Weldon and 

Kemal Houghton. (I've chosen my own pictures to illustrate 



The rhythm almost

Lulls me to sleep.

Trees glinting gold flash by,

Tilled fields rich with autumn

In a divided sky

A sparrowhawk hovers,


Searching for prey

Weak sun surrenders to drenching rain

Stick figures scurry

Umbrellas unfurled

Through rain swept streets.

On a street corner

A small child


And the landscape changes

Unfolds as we pass

Dips and undulates

With secret valleys and gentle hills

Wrapped in a benevolent sky

I think of children's toys

And long forgotten promises

And wine

Like tears or blood

And the air changes, steals through me,

Sharp and clean,


And I breathe it in deep,

As I near the land of my birth

Marigold Roy

Marigold's poem, a bit like David Subacchi's in 

the earlier post, depicts what is seen in a landscape one moves 

through quickly. But here the history is personal and not revealed. 

Marigold is skilled at seeing inner moods or feelings projected on 

or reflected in – whichever way you like to think of it – the 

external world. We enjoy the sparrowhawk's expansive flight. But 

the 'divided sky', the child crying on a street corner, and the 'wine

like blood or tears' suggests there is more to this returning than the 

'benevolent sky'.


As I loiter, the corner

Curls its lip and

Shrugs a shoulder

The pavement slouches

To the next turn-off

Where it stops abruptly

In a flurry of old stones

I lean against a lamppost

That pushes back

With its own fighting weight

I rub my head

Where it’s started to ache

And hoist up my bag

Before it anchors to the ground

The school gates loom before me

High with disapproval


Sweep me inside

Marigold Roy

School is a masterful depiction of the moods and attitudes of 

a so-called inanimate world, lamp-posts, walls and pavements all 

acquiring characteristics. Seen from a child's perspective, 

everything is vividly alive, the outside world is peopled by one's 

own feelings, and benevolence and hostility juggle in our 

pre-conceptual and pre-judgemental world.

Maureen Weldon's Returning needs to be read slowly so we can

soak in the atmosphere. We enter through the gate – in other 

words, we cross a threshold – so where are we now, what portal 

have we really passed through? It all seems very benign, happy, a 

pastoral idyll you could say. But where is it really? 'Can you really

remember me?' And the final line throws it wide open, leaving the 

possibilities to percolate in our minds.


I walk the busy road, stop at an old wrought iron gate, it squeaks and is open.

Oh how I love these trees, this stony path.

Being early Summer bees are singing and the sweet smell of honeysuckle delights me.

I approach the house. Rose-tinted creeper hides old orange bricks. Bright fuchsias slouch on either side of a green wooden hall-door.

“Blacky, is this you? My darling little Blacky-cat. Can you really remember me?”

I hear a whistling, a sound so familiar. My Dad is approaching from the back of the house. (Will I hide)?

From the kitchen a lovely soft contralto voice hums.

“Mary, is supper nearly ready?” “No Harry, it will take at least another half an hour.”

I am not sure whether to use the old key I have kept so safely all these last ten years?

Maureen Weldon

Lost gives us a completely different mood, humorous and jaunty. 

Maureen is good at pinpointing life's sometimes absurd situations,

catching the flow and scatter of our minds as we look for 

something lost. We all recognize this - and laugh!


I have lost them,
I could swear I had them last night;

I didn’t need them – then.
But there again – I thought

you’d given me your email address?
Your name?

Tom, Dick, Harry?
Oh go suck your lolly.

Right now, I would like a lolly,
iced, cold from the freezer.

Where did I put the darn things?
I knew I needed them – when

I saw a cow,
which was in fact, a horse.

Maureen Weldon

Perhaps it was the dog that borrowed the glasses?

Chester to Bebington

This teeming July heat
brings on the Chester crowds
welling for the races,
pushing down the pavements
towards, who knows what.

And I swim like a salmon,
lost in some murky canal,
searching for the river
and home. The car park
bustles as I fumble the keys
to sit where my space
welds around me. Music

drowns the diesel clatter
as I nose way through.
Traffic streams in all directions,
whirlpools round the ring-road
and I am swimming again.

On the road out I ease back,
let the flow push me along
past fields and houses,
small town suburbia,
to the interchange, foot down
into the faster flow
leading to home. Once more
eddying in the stop-start
of traffic lights that strew
the last round-a-bout.

Time to relax, smell
the coffee of my brain.
The last left, the final right
to the welcome trees
and the worn speed-humps
where waiting, fresh-faced
is home with its old
familiar cat.

©Kemal Houghton – 12th July 2014

Kemal Houghton's Chester to Bebington uses watery images to 

convey a journey home, appropriate as Chester has many 

waterways – canals and the river – and we feel the slippery nature 

of the journey.

Home is both familiar and supportive – the 'old familiar cat' - and 

'fresh-faced' – full of trees and space, having come out of the 

crowded streets and roads.

Riverside Walk plays with the idea of lostness, the way marked 

paths can lead us astray, bring us face to face with places we most 

definitely do not want to go in, yet the problems it brings us up 

against are not insuperable, only irritating. When Kemal read this 

out in the workshop we all laughed at the absurdity, we recognised 

this situation. But reading it again on the page – and this is always 

an interesting exercise – the difference between hearing words 

spoken and reading them on the page – I notice something else. 

Just as when you listen to an orchestra play a familiar theme, you 

might notice an individual instrument, playing a subtle melody or 

bass line.

For though the walkers have been led astray, still, there is this 

feeling that in this walk, there is something undeniably strong and 

secure, something not named, yet you feel this inner something is 

far sturdier than waymarkers and even ways, that will always 

support these walkers wherever they go.

Riverside Walk (Eastham to Nowhere)

You can’t get lost
on the riverside walk;
keep the river to your right
and your feet dry.

And we are not lost,
two miles across the estuary’s mud
lies Garston, from this bank
I can see the three graces
of Pier Head. You and I
can never be lost.

We follow this wooded path
with its stiff metal fence
to the left, keeping us out
of the lithium works,
later a steep bank takes us
in sight of the road
but there are more metal fences,
then quicksand and destruction.

You follow me out onto the concrete yard
of some fallen industrial pile.

We stare through the locked gates
onto the road that we know
would lead us home.
We are not lost, though we retrace
our steps back the half mile
we have come, keeping the river
to our left, our feet stung
by nettles. We can never be lost
on this our long walk home.

©Kemal Houghton – 12th July 2014

No locked gates here - the Welsh side of the estuary, at low tide


Anonymous said...

A marvelous workshop it was.

Thank you Morelle. xx

Maureen Weldon

dritanje said...

Thanks to you Maureen! And to everyone who contributed to making it such a memorable day! xx