A poem by John Welch


The Dominicino frescoes were originally made for the Aldobrandini Villa and a number of them are now in the National Gallery, where at the time of writing they can be seen only on Wednesday afternoons and not always then. They depict the achievements of the god Apollo. There the god is shown attacking a succession of primitive, defenceless creatures – the Cyclops, the satyr Marsyas, Daphne and so on. In one fresco, Apollo and Neptune advising Laodemon on the Building of Troy, the god appears as a celestial town planner, as the New City rises, immaculate, in the distance. These scenes are depicted as if on tapestry hangings. At the foot of one of them is a burly dwarf, chained, staring out at the spectator, holding his manacled wrists in front of him.

Fresco being when the moment dries,
A god’s apology?
A creature exits into leaf.
And here’s another –
He’s bowed before its sacrificial flesh
Stripping away the close-packed text
Language turned inside out, and now
What kind of garment is it
Hung over branches, stiffening as it dries?
He lifts away from this, and turns
To face the city
That opens in the distance like a sort of dream.

‘Hoof clippings?’ someone writes,
The language being transformed
Where tongue sits in its mouth, the
Voice of flesh – is it
That in the end we might be saved from harm?
In here we shall no longer smell the music
Ours is a cautious silence of rooms.

And days spent trying not to be angry
Wondering how to be happy.
There were those deathless-seeming early mornings
Birds in small unexpected flocks,
Planes dozing in the sky.
Vague wandering suburb, trying to find where it started.
March. Deadheads of last year’s buddleia
Each spring some stuff springs out
There are feral daffodils
They nod in the strict sunshine
And trains that pull in to almost deserted platforms.
This is the land for the town
Its casual annihilation of a landscape,
A scatter of coins that spill from a broken pot.


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