2012 winner - Leaving No Wake
by John Watson
About short-term memory they
were never wrong, the old masters, nor
the Ancients holding the floor.
But would they have been any
more incisive had they been
privy to brain scans slapped on a screen
by a technician in a white lab coat
to illustrate nodes, points of atrophy, what
not, in which memory may reside? Perhaps not.
The modern era is rich in pathologies –
the famous case of the woman suffering a blow
whose left hand then not only didn’t know
what her right hand was doing but when,
on becoming aware of it, was clearly riled.
Accordingly when the right dialled
and spoke on the telephone, the left would hang up;
or when the right selected a dress
the left would at once replace it, no less.
One might cite other cases too
casting light on the pathology of memory,
instances of unfettered happiness, say,
retained in the present (e.g. one man sailing a yacht
in a continuum of spray) when that present
rather than emptying as is its wont
into the storage vessel The Past
bypasses it, emptying straight into a sluice
to re-enter the ocean of unrecorded loss.
O for a draught of that particular vintage:
the delight of a continuous present
with no sail bellying out in a crescent
behind it, and leaving no wake.
John Watson is the author of A First Reader (Five Islands Press, 2003), Montale: A Biographical Anthology (Puncher and Wattmann, 2006), Erasure Traces (Puncher and Wattmann, 2008), Views from Mt Brogden & A Dictionary of Minor Poets (Puncher and Wattmann, 2008), River Syllabics (Picaro Press, 2009), Four Refrains (Picaro Press, 2011), Occam’s Aftershave (Puncher and Wattmann, 2012) and The Tale of Gawain (Picaro Press, 2012). John won the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2002 and the Blake Prize for Poetry in 2009.
John has lived in the Blue Mountains, 100km west of Sydney, Australia for the past 40 years. Formerly a teacher of Mathematics (mentioning Fibonacci whenever possible) he would list as enthusiasms, Daphnis and Chloe, Kleist’s Marquise von O, Nerval’s Sylvie, Lampedusa’s Ligheia, the medieval Tristan, all of which he has versified. He admires the films of Billy Wilder and Lubitsch. He prefers humour to severity and the playful or Menippean mode to the tragic. He hopes that 'in humour the lyrical may flourish'.
Highly commended poems
- After Sally calls, I book a flight to New York by Laura Shore
- This Asian Century by Bruce Greenhalgh
- Following by Ruth Somers