Thursday, 4 June 2009

An Old Man Walks Home

Clint Eastwood's neighbour recently e-mailed to say he was knocked-out by the following poem. Good, Bad or Ugly - it's in the collection Genteel Messages (p30) and also in the new Ink, Sweat and Tears Anthology.

Gwilym Williams' poems? Hang 'em high, says Poet-in-Residence shamelessly!

An Old Man Walks Home

In the garden there grows a crippled tree
heavy with crab-apples
food for worms
and wasps.

In the garden pond
the frogs float
grim faced
they blink and croak.

On the outhouse roof
the owl rests
patient for the night
Magritte's clock with no hands.

Homeward on the wing
not contending with the problem
of where he came from
the white dove.

And below is an old man
walking home and wondering why
he was given the ability
to question it all.

In the kitchen
his wife
face to face with twilight
draws the curtains.

gw 2008


  1. "Face to face with twilight" Gwylim - I love that line, although at my age I find it faintly disturbing too.
    Thanks for the porridge comment on my poem - greatly appreciated, as was the help you gave me.

  2. Can't decide whether this gives the wife less or more importance than the old man's thinking...Has she wondered and found an answer, or is she never suppose to have questioned anything?

  3. Jinksy, I feel that the wife is the more philosophical. The man is still questioning. Of course, everyone will take their own impressions and ideas. It's one of those kind of poems. It's open to various interpretations. Perhaps it depends on a person's mood when they read it?

  4. Weaver - "Face to Face with twilight", well we all get there, or at least most of us do, if we live long enough. Having said what I said to jinksy, we can read the poem another way, the onset of Alzeihmers for example. There are many ways to read this poem. That's the strength of it, even if I say so myself. It depends on one's individual circumstances and experiences.

  5. What strikes me about jinksy's question and your answer is that the wife, after coming face to face with the twilight, draws the curtains. Almost as if she has answered the riddles that occupy the man's mind to her own satisfaction and moved on - drawn the curtains against them. Perhaps she has a more pragmatic outlook. Perhaps women, generally speaking, if one can speak generally on such a subject, tend to have a more pragmatic outlook. I spent several years writing a novel about an old man suffering from a failure of memory walking home and wondering why he'd been given the ability to wonder, while a woman stayed home and looked out at the twilight and here you've managed to sum up the entire problem in a few stanzas. I'm impressed - as always.

  6. Mairi, thanks for your, as ever, insightful comments. I cannot begin to imagine the work entailed in writing a novel about all this. I often take my proverbial hat off to you novelists! The research, the piles of notes, the organizing, the revisions, and the act of memory, of remembering the details of the whats, wheres, whys and hows in the previous 200 pages, is to me quite awesome.

  7. I emailed editor of Ink, Sweat, & Tears, Charles Christian in the U.K., because, loving his anthology, most of all Gwilym's poem "made my day," as movie-maker and neighbor Clint Eastwood said in a "Dirty Harry" movie. I asked Charles to let this poet know, I got an email from him, and here we are communicating across the Universe (well, round the Globe), which is what is added value of online publishing. Last spring, The Munyori Literary Journal published 3 of my poems online and I got an email from Ghana. Now my reply to THIS poem and my reply to the thought REPLIES: how else, but with another poem, this one as yet unpublished:


    When will it end?
    Only time will tell.

    So I forgot your name?
    You no longer know me.

    Listen, Sonny. Nothing has changed
    Where oblivion dwells.

    Believe me. Those days of wondering?
    Let them go by.

    I create my own clock
    And paint bon-bons.

    I have problems with balance,
    And with the strength of my legs.

    Other signs so far look good.
    I still smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.

  8. Neal, Thanks for your comments and poem. It reminds me of a talk I went to by the German actor Joachim Meyerhoff where he told how is father stopped smoking at 40 with the idea of re-starting at 80. Unfortunately it seems he started again too soon, at 44, due to some stress over a sailing boat accident and eventually got the Big C. I've noticed that when Meyerhoff plays a role involving smoking, as in Wer hat Angst vor Virginia Woolf, he keeps it to the bare minimum and doesn't inhale.
    Having said all that, when it comes to one's health, it's every man for himself in the real world. But as you say: Nothing has changed where oblivion dwells.
    I had a look at and found your 3 poems and your photo. It's a clear quick uncluttered site. I'll work my way through it. Many thanks! Gwilym

  9. It is a good is the other one...Isn't that enough? Poetry is basically about touch... What do you think about this..?

  10. Also "knocked out" by this. I'm particularly fond of the theme (expressed in "wondering why
    he was given the ability
    to question it all") of the (seemingly) unique aspects of human consciousness.

  11. It is both theme and form. Williams likes to screw his poems tight. He seems to be
    like an experienced carpenter...

  12. Regarding form - Astute as ever Satypal sees (for example) that the first two verses begin with 'In..' and 'In..' and the last two likewise ... and in the middle we have 'On..' and 'Homeword on...' And this kind of verse structure fits well to his metaphor of "screwing the poems tight like a carpenter" and he is exactly right about this.

  13. Dominic, thanks, and much appreciated.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.