Night Ride to Teignmouth with Keats

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

I’ve changed the order of the poems about Keats because we did a poetry walk around Teignmouth on Wednesday this week and this was one of the poems recited.

The author, Graham Burchell, read it to us outside the New Quay Inn where the verses from one of Keats’ pieces of ‘doggerel’ is writ on the outside wall.


(Graham Burchell, 2012)

On top of the coach, wedged between the fabrics
of others and packages in wicker, leather and wood,
there is room only for breath, rain and the wind
that draws discomfort like a purse string.

I touch his arm, smell the damp in his greatcoat
through my fingertips. He’ll never know. I am ghost.
I’ve clawed back time to see his skin in the night –
smooth and cold – stones in a streambed.

I hear the harsh compression of his lungs,
sense melancholy behind eyes that flicker.
His and all the other heads are bowed.
Those seats could be pews in a roofless church.

Inside, in the dry, a corpulent man smokes, reeks
of powder and porter. He rubs against a woman
clutching a bible that she’ll not open,
even when the white sky of morning comes.

Opposite, a Wesleyan priest with a fixed scowl,
journeys with a younger man whose nose needs dabbing,
who may be a relative. They do not converse
but sometimes growl, like coach wheels riding stones.

All complain when those same wheels drop into ruts.
A wife across from the poet, sleepy in the rain,
tightens the grip on her child. Her husband
digs deeper into the scruff of a fresh dead hare.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Poetry Walk …..


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