Geoffrey Winch

Geoffrey Winch is a Slipstream poet who lives in West Sussex. His poem, MEETING OF MINDS, first appeared in Littoral magazine in 2006. NOTES FOR THE FUTURE was a winning poem in the Quantum Leap 5x5 competition 2008. It will appear in the booklet about to be published by Quantum Leap magazine. TRAGEDY: ACT VI was published by Iota in 2005. CHAMPAGNE IN MOSCOW, OVER THE GATE, LIGHT RELIEF and LIGHTS OF MONTEREY all appear in his latest collection entitled 'Letting the Road-Dust Settle'.

STANDING LION

‘Maiwand Lion’: George Blackall Simonds, cast iron sculpture,
Forbury Gardens, Reading, 1886


There was a time a Royalists’ gun
stood close to the Abbey’s walls:
now there’s silence — the gun long-gone,
the walls’ cold flints fallen.

In the bandstand out muted voices;
in the lily-pond the fountain’s plash
and the silence of the fish —

close to the heart of town
only a murmur of traffic-throb —
peaceful gardens even for a child.

Here our black lion stands on his plinth:
we believe he actually turns his head,
his mane is quite majestic.

He bares his fangs
but never roars,
his eyes proclaim our peace.

Some have pronounced he’s out of step —
he doesn’t argue, simply declares
he stands there for silent men,
fallen.

*

(The Maiwand Lion commemorates 329 men lost from the 66th Berkshire
Regiment during the Afghanistan campaign between 1878 and 1880.
There has been much debate as to whether or not the lion’s stance is anatomically correct.)


NEGATIVELY CHARGED

‘Electric Ladyland’, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: U.K. album cover photograph: art director, Dave King, 1968

Not even one of the photographs Jimi chose,
courtesy of Linda, with young friends
and dedicated music-makers — pictures
he’d mapped out on an hotel’s writing paper

(any change from these directions would
not be appropriate, he wrote, according to
the music and our group’s present stage ...)


but, instead, a photo of nineteen ladies
who, although unclothed, failed to turn
him on. Too much flesh appearing all too
tainted, too demeaning to femininity —
not electric ladies who could connect
with the music in his head.

No with-it chicks with winning smiles;
no pounding hearts grooving to his vibe;
no rousing looks for the camera’s eye —
no gypsy eyes — only shallow black:
eyes that could never hypnotize.

And no ring of truth from the narrow band
around the pale finger pushed to the fore —
gold not from Jupiter’s sulphur mines
or sourced from a Venus-witch’s forge.

Ladies not positively charged;
not one angel spreading her musical wings —
not one amazed to see a voodoo child;
not one, fumbling with his photograph, spell-
bound by the sounds he conjured
from a Stratocaster’s strings.

*

(Photographs by Linda Eastman selected by Jimi Hendrix
for the original UK album cover were eventually used when
the CD version was released in 1997)





HOME-HUNTER



Photo used with kind permission.

[ Link: Nic Fiddian-Green: Artemis, horse’s head,
monumental bronze at Goodwood, 2010
]


Through alchemy of vision you came
with your borrowed name, and breath
drawn from Selene’s horse

to stand on our downs’ ancient fort –
no sweat from chariot-hauling:
any latent heat that of the forge.

Radiant with moonlight you charmed
the nights when spiteful weather
failed to blow up from the English sea;

gloried next in a grand-standing season
reigning over highborn racers –
their flesh mapped by coursing veins.

Then, resting on the lower lawns,
you welcomed guests
to your transient home where

within your eyes they saw
not empty holes but hollows
filled by rapid learning;

in your ears heard the toiling
of countless horses’ hooves, felt
the unease of horses’ histories,

and from your gently-flaring nostrils
your heady breath
they breathed.


(In November 2011 Artemis was purchased by a private buyer and transported to Australia.)

JAZZ STRIPES BY A WATER’S EDGE

white and brown-black bars – a medley
graded paralleled manifold-angled
arrayed and rippling along a water’s edge –
the herding instinct defies decoding
dazzles an eye if it tries to count

so it begins to count bright eyes instead –
long and lush their slow-blinking lashes –
or striated manes softly-bristled; mule-
muzzled heads as they dip to drink;

then twitching ears suddenly prick
intent on listening for one alien sound
that will instantly turn the peaceful medley
into a zigzagging jazz-stripe frenzy,
into dust drumming with hooves

OLD SALT

Roaming the shore
in search of a poem
first I watched dark vapours shift
to give shine to the dawning sky

where gulls on ultra-static wings
swerving, lifting, dipping
screeched keynotes of their speech
with the sound of shattered reeds –
                                I listened
but failed to hear a poem.

Foaming fairies
riding little white ponies
contentedly cantered ashore
but not one could I catch
as each was sacrificed
on the fine sand’s thirsty floor.

At noon a shimmering hull I saw
wavering on the glittering rim,
yet not a single word reached my ear
from lost souls who were sinking.

Encountered then the old Aranjuez –
unmanned, de-sailed and laying at ease
in freshening tones of a blissful breeze
that strummed her B minor strings
and turned her tattered pennant shreds
towards a quixotic garden park
where stood a palace with grand façades –
but they could only dazzle.

Then as the sun’s last lowlights jazzed
the dim and dusted horizon
so cool-night mists conjoined their blues
to deprive me of that line, leaving

bewitching and long-tentacled weeds
to watch and wait for me,
weaving and waving shadowy limbs
to a slow-beat shanty rhythm
that couldn’t conjure-up my poem – so

towards the greensward I strained my eyes
to search for the spot where an old salt sat,
and there I saw him sleeping,
dreaming in the gloaming.

TIME AS A LION

The moon was a captured lantern
when aging was only imagination
at the margins of a child’s blue-sky day,
though sometimes night’s shadows
had eyes that could see far-away places.

And that was when time was just a cub
hugging a child at play – paper boats
and teddy bears, wooden ducks
and dinky toys – until tired clock faces
declared time for bed.

Time later turned hunter hungering
after days, but now is the lion we hoped
would bring flowers, tamed to prevent
life slipping away – roaring ever-louder,
devouring every blue-sky day.

3 SHORT POEMS

Nightdress

imagination --
such a wonderful thing --
sometimes content
to leave things as they are --
your pink nightdress for instance


Time and Space

time and space --
one and the same thing
when they are barriers

between

us

Walking Shoes

when your arms are free
to reach out for me
write or give me a call

(text or e-mail if you must) --

my long distance walking shoes
wait by my door


*


NO EASY LIFE

On a sunny day it may be okay
for an upholstered chair to take the air
and go for an amble across the green.

And if the upholstered chair
should happen to meet a wooden seat
it may wish to stop for a little chat
about the weather, of course, --
and the bums they have to bear.

They will probably like to compare
the amply-cheeked with neat backsides,
and large posteriors with elegant derrières
but, being polite, they’ll not wish to discuss
those musical notes and tasteless odours
that cause them real despair.

Then, when they’ve said all there is to say,
they may be content just to sit and stare --
the wooden seat and the upholstered chair --
while keeping an eye on the weather.

CHAMPAGNE IN MOSCOW

With only personal secrets to divulge
to ears buried deep inside silent walls
we, even so, assumed prudence to be
our watchword, kept our voices low so
only we could understand.

But where would our journey now begin
since the Intourist has been razed?
Plunging out into snow-heavy streets,
our destination Gorky Street to browse
the evening through the city’s book stores,
to connect with those foreign words --
language the only irksome barrier

until Yuri, reading our visitors’ minds,
beckoned. We followed round blind corners
of a back street maze in deeper snow where,
in a dimly-lit alleyway, he opened an unseen door
from which light poured out with the warmth
of convivial chatter, and we went inside.
He took our coats, hung them with the cloaks
and furs, and invited us to join the crowd --
young people in free discussion, about what
we never learned. He served us tea from
the steaming samovar, chocolate bars broken
and shared. Moscow’s youth filled our glasses
then filled them again -- champagne flowed,
balalaikas played and unrestrained we sung
together freely celebrating communication.

Geoffrey Winch


OVER THE GATE

No sign that said trespassers
would be prosecuted -- if there had been
we probably wouldn’t have understood.
So we followed that overgrown path,
found angels playing tennis, serving
each other with compliments, volleying
friendship and laughter.

On the bowling green saints glided
over the neatly-shorn carpet, studied
the jack head, discussed how to refine
the fine line of their next wood --
concluded restraint was preferable to a smash.

On the archery field
real-life Maids and Robin Hoods
with bowstrings true and taut, honed
their arrows’ trajectories towards
their target’s golden centre --
a bull’s eye earned a kiss,
a rich reward.

A match in progress
on the cricket square was being played
at a leisurely pace, interrupted only
by an emphatic owzat to which
a minor god calmly raised a finger
and a batsman walked acknowledging
polite applause for another useful innings.

Needless to say the sun shone that day
and spectators cat-napped in safety
but, as we climbed back over the gate,
we kept ourselves small knowing
we’d have to grow-up
in an altogether different world.

Geoffrey Winch


LIGHT RELIEF

Like you’ve been driving hundreds of miles alone,
blind, through a seamless dark desert at night.
Time is suspended on the unwinding black ribbon,
not changing in texture, unrelenting monochrome.
No moonlight, no starlight, and not one car’s passed by --
it’s as if you're not moving in your main-beam light.
The radio’s music is the sound of space --
the distant DJ may not even exist. Your lungs
squeeze your breathing like negative assurance --
next time this journey will be under the sun
(to hell with the raging heat!)

Then an uncertain light – just a pin-prick, not a star –
elusive at first, finds somewhere to rest
upon your imagined horizon.
You don’t let it drift -- its steadiness is comfort --
you are, after all, not the sole inhabitant of earth.
Your foot, heavy as rock, eases back on the gas
when a second dim light twins with the first.
Now you purposely rest your head on the headrest,
take a hand from the wheel not owning relief.
You laugh at the DJ -- his silliest joke --
tap your fingers to his music, watch the clustering lights.
Deep-breathing becomes easy -- you cruise your way home.

Geoffrey Winch


LIGHTS OF MONTEREY

Remnant shadows cast by
a decaying sun were closing-down
my final Monterey afternoon.

Relaxed by early evening’s charm
on a bench above the marina -- the day’s
last sailors were making fast their boats --
I was listening to naked rigging playing
jazz-rattle to the breeze. Fisherman’s Wharf
gradually became a darkened patch -- earlier
I had been there sussing-out souvenirs.
Then little lights bloomed inside, created
a honey-glow -- their reflections rippled
on the water.

After battening-down their hatches
the sailors were heading ashore --
with one hand they held the rope-rails
strung the length of the rolling duck-boards,
bobbing lantern lights they held in the other.
Absorbed to the point of being lost in their world
I was taking no notice of others passing by
until she came from Fisherman’s Wharf
and sat down by my side. Disturbed

from my reverie, I nodded and said ‘Hi’ --
she smiled an elfin smile -- ‘Hi’ she replied.
She was wearing blue denim -- a red headband
and long black hair framed her peaceful face --
the perfume she wore was flower-power. She
was a beautiful person -- she had honeyed skin
and deep in her eyes was friendship’s light --
a light that would travel on with me.

Geoffrey Winch


MEETING OF MINDS

My soul lives in the city - uptown fancies,
downtown follies collaborate to stimulate
my desires. Portents seething beneath
shady complexions evolve as knowledge,
bright perceptions that feed my fire while

your heart is rooted in the wilderness. You
never blow hot like the potent sun but
understand its risings, settings, primal reasons.
Moon and stardust flow in your blood,
sunlight and wisdom from your eye.

I applaud neon, laser-jazz, vital flashing signs -
for me they are a city’s sweat even on a cold,
cold night, upping my pulse-rate - their oxygen
of passion runs through my veins sustaining
my rationale, the crucible of life in my brain.

In wildlife voices, rhythms, vibrations you feel
the heartbeats of earth, sea and air - they speak
to you their secret tongues as night chills,
stillness, silence, invincible distance descend
to test the faith you never forgo - but then

you meet me on the urban edge where, eagle-high
we soar together and, with serpents’ eyes, we realise
just how the wider vistas of our world converge.

Geoffrey Winch

NOTES FOR THE FUTURE

The throng of the afternoon park
converses with the sun -
standing, squatting, sitting -
grass patches all messed-up
with bedrolls, meths stoves,
ice cream, smoke

then comes the human silence hum.

Josephine with her red headband
and Trish (a white rose in her hair)
kiss Daniel on the mouth
to the guitarist’s edgy opening riff
and the Hammond’s rotating bliss.
Drums and bass lay down the beat,
Nigel sings through a feedback shriek
and West Abutment are underway -

and they play, and play, and play.

Trish rests her head on Josephine’s breast -
Daniel - eyes closed - strokes her back
until the guitar comes to a stop. Drums
and organ then fade away
while Nigel with a sigh
kisses the sky goodbye
and leaves the stage
for the bassist to maintain
the throb of the afternoon’s refrain
playing paper notes - holding each one
then setting it free
to carry Trish, Daniel and Josephine
into a higher ecstasy - a heavenly dome
of light and shade
where red, blue and yellow boxes
stand empty on a mirrored floor
waiting to be filled
with their tomorrows’ crystal balls.

Geoffrey Winch

TRAGEDY : ACT VI

It’s not about the breathless silence that falls
upon your audience’s ears still ringing
with your last soliloquy -
or the first impatient hand-clap quickly
swallowed by swelling applause,
the curtain calls, standing ovation
or wallowing in mutual admiration.
It’s not about leaving the stage with a wave,
a flourish, blowing a kiss - not about
a tragedian going out in style.

Nor about your affair in the dressing-room
with your mirror, changing faces, disguising
yourself in everyday clothes,
shutting the stage door as you go.

It’s not about talent - the only prop
you’ve ever needed, always adlibbing
graffiti scripts, still safe in your pocket .

It’s something to do with returning
to where you reside, the ghost
of act five beginning to haunt you
in the tube train window, the lines
of communication and power surging
only into darkness, the clatter
of every sudden change in direction,
the harsh reality of those skirmishes
at every brashly lit station.

Also to do with stars being clouded over, rain
starting to fall before you open the front door.

Mostly though it’s about resting in silence when
your heroes are still unspent.

Geoffrey Winch