Gwen John A Lady Reading
Gwen John 'A lady Reading'

A Chair in my House: after Gwen John

Jenny Joseph


The house is very still and it is very quiet.
the chair stands in the hall: lines on the air;
Bar back, a plane of wood, focus in a space
Polished by dusk and people who might sit there.

Pieces of matter have made it. To get in words
What you could do in paint
Only the simplest sentences will serve.

And in this presence how much 'elsewhere' lurks.
It is a sort of listening to the air
That laps the object, a breathing in of light
That's needed if we are to see the chair.

Here I pare this little stick of words
To keep away the crowds
And set my chair down, which words can never do.

The yellow daisies clash in the wind outside
It's not for long we can ignore they're there
Your noisy letters are dead in a box in the town
Your pictures breathe this wordless atmosphere.

The days goes through the room: dusk, white wall, through
To dusk again, and my wooden chair stands there.
I cannot get my chair the way you do
The things you paint.
Even the simplest sentence will not do.

Gwen John Chloe Boughton-Leigh 1904-8
Gwen John 'Chloe Boughton-Leigh' 1904-8

Jenny Joseph's Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) were published in 1992 and includes work from The Unlooked-for Season (Scorpion, 1960), Rose in the Afternoon (Dent, 1974), The Thinking Heart & Beyond Descartes (Secker & Warburg 1987 & 1983). Her Persephone (Bloodaxe), a fiction in prose and verse, won the James Tait Black Award for 1986. Beached Boats (Enitharnon, 1990) combines Joseph's prose with the wirk of American photographer, Robert Mitchell.

Gwen John Young Woman Holding a Black Cat c.1920-5
Gwen John Young 'Woman Holding a Black Cat' c.1920-5