WATMOUGH, David (1926-2017)




Author Tags: Essentials 2010, Fiction, Poetry

"I hope my work is myopically 'westcoast' and persistently graceful in language." -- David Watmough

"That rarest of birds on the literary scene, the natural storyteller." -- Robert Fulford

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Homosexuals in British Columbia can now express themselves openly in print; and for that they owe a debt to David Watmough. The Cornishman was a mainstay of the West Coast fiction scene ever since he accepted Canadian citizenship in 1963. As the first male homosexual writer out of the closet in British Columbia, Watmough was for a long time the senior gay male fiction writer in Canada, active for six decades, with 20 books. Long concerned with the cultural climate of B.C. as a whole, Watmough was also the first president of the Federation of B.C. Writers.

According to his close friend Simon Murphy, David Watmough died at about 11:00 a.m. on Friday, August 4. August 17 would have been his 91st birthday. "He’d been a resident of Crofton Manor in Kerrisdale since about 2009. He moved there shortly after [his lifetime partner] Floyd’s death. They moved out to Boundary Bay after selling the Kitsilano house. The move left them rather isolated from their friends, which became a problem for David after Floyd’s death. Initially, David lived in the independent side of Crofton and enjoyed the social life there. He gave readings to his fellow “inmates” and to some of the Kerrisdale schools. David was creatively productive throughout his time at Crofton, taking on the sonnet form. He published several volumes of these. This time last year, David had a fall that was the result of increasing physical weakness. He moved into the more intensive care side of Crofton, which left him with less stimulation. His physical deterioration and weakness had been getting worse over the last few months. His mind was still quite sharp up to the end."

With a bravura prose style, Watmough's short stories and novels chiefly explored the life of his fictional protagonist Davey Bryant. He once noted his ambition was to create "a fictional autobiography of Davey Bryant, a 20th-century man who happens to be an author, an immigrant and a homosexual." All volumes of Watmough's Davey Bryant series of fiction were written in Kitsilano, where Watmough lived for more than forty years with opera critic and university professor Floyd St. Clair. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Mercer once observed, "For David and Floyd, a closet was a place to hang their guests' coats. They were never secretive, and never ghettoized, either."

Born of Cornish ancestry near Epping Forest on the eastern edge of London in 1926, David Watmough grew up mainly in Cornwall. His first published book, A Church Renascent (1951), concerns the worker-priest movement and arose from his studies in theology at King's College. He first visited Vancouver in 1959 and returned in 1961 to produce a series of reports on the Vancouver Festival for CBC. His partner Floyd St. Clair subsequently sent his CV to the head of the UBC French department and secured a job teaching French at the university.

In 2004, Watmough and St. Clair purchased a new residence in the Boundary Bay area of Tsawwassen (a home they named Kernow; Celtic for Cornwall). After St. Clair died in 2009, Watmough returned to live in Vancouver. Poet and critic Trevor Carolan wrote in 2007, "David Watmough rewrote the rules on what fiction could discuss in this country. He's still at it, writing as a wise, compassionate elder with Vancouver in his bones and the Cornish muse in his DNA--changing the way we think about the human condition in this city he's called home for nearly fifty years."

FULL ENTRY:

David Watmough, the senior gay male fiction writer in Canada, was a mainstay of the West Coast fiction scene since the Cornishman accepted Canadian citizenship in 1963. His outlook is significant because he wrote fiction in British Columbia continuously for six decades and he was the first homosexual writer widely acknowledged as gay in British Columbia. As Vancouver poet and critic Trevor Carolan wrote in 2007, "David Watmough rewrote the rules on what fiction could discuss in this country. He's still at it, writing as a wise, compassionate elder with Vancouver in his bones and the Cornish muse in his DNA--changing the way we think about the human condition in this city he's called home for nearly fifty years."

Born of Cornish ancestry near Epping Forest on the eastern edge of London in 1926, he mainly grew up in Cornwall and attended Cooper's School and King's College in London. It's a little-known fact that his first published book, A Church Renascent, concerns the worker-priest movement and arose from his studies in theology at King's College. He worked as a reporter for the Cornish Guardian, a 'Talks Producer' for BBC's Third Programme and an editor for Ace Books. Watmough first came to North America in 1952, working as an editor for Holy Cross Press in New York and a contributor to the San Francisco Examiner. He first visited Vancouver from San Francisco in 1959.

Watmough came to live in Vancouver after the CBC invited him to produce a series of reports on the Vancouver Festival in 1961, whereupon his lover Floyd St. Clair sent his C.V. to the head of the UBC French department and secured a job at the university as of December, 1962. As playwright and screenwriter Michael Mercer has observed, "For David and Floyd, a closet was a place to hang their guests' coats. They were never secretive, and never ghettoized, either." During the 1960s Watmough gained prominence in Vancouver as a freelance literary broadcaster for the CBC and as a performer of his 'monodramas.' Watmough once claimed he had presented more than 3,000 readings from his works in Canada, United States, Britain and West Germany.

Long concerned with the cultural climate of British Columbia as a whole, David Watmough was the first president of the Federation of B.C. Writers. He summarized, "My subject matter includes the demographic evolution of my city perceived through a gay sensibility and the eyes and ears of a Celtic immigrant with a passion for natural history and a sense of humour laced with irony." His short stories and novels have chiefly explored the life of his fictional protagonist Davey Bryant, ranging from experiences during World War II to aging in British Columbia. He has noted his ambition has been to create "a fictional autobiography of Davey Bryant, a 20th century man who happens to be an author, an immigrant and a homosexual."

All volumes of Watmough's Davey Bryant series of fiction were written in Kitsilano, where he lived for more than forty years with ex-Californian Floyd St. Clair, the much-admired and loved UBC French professor and opera critic, whom Watmough met in 1951 at a Wednesday night social at St. George's Anglican Church in Paris. Watmough was 25 years old and St. Clair was 21, studying in Paris on a French government scholarship. In 2004, Watmough and St. Clair purchased a new residence in the Boundary Bay area of Tsawwassen (a home they named Kernow; Celtic for Cornwall).

Watmough launched the first volume in a projected trilogy about life in Vancouver at the dawn of the 21st century, Vancouver Voices (Ripple Effect Press, $15.99), a 168-page novel about a gay priest falsely accused of child abuse. According to Jane Rule, "David Watmough fictionalizes his own life, trying on different sorts of parents, different sorts of siblings as well as different sorts of experiences. A blatant liar, he tells the real truth: the imagination has many lives. We laugh at, we judge, we forgive him and, therefore, ourselves." According to reviewer Daniel Gawthrop, Watmough exhibits a "legendary fetish for adjectives" that can seem hyperbolic at times.

At 81, David Watmough released his his 13th work of fiction, Geraldine (Ekstasis $22.95), a tribute to women of the twentieth century who were feminists before the word existed. As a Victoria-raised bio-chemist in the field of medical science, the protagonist, now a grandmother, must cope with the humiliation of being regarded as snobbish and crazy in her declining years, despite her extensive professional success in a man's world. Alone in a hi-rise apartment in Vancouver's West End, she reflects on her life and times, while developing an unforeseeable friendship with her young, gay grandson. Watmough credited Elisabeth Hopkins [see ABCBookWorld entry] as an influence for his feisty, older female characters.

Despite its title, Watmough does not reveal a great deal of himself in Myself Through Others, Memoirs (Dundurn $24.99). Not an autobiography, this is a tell-some, rather than a tell-all. Although Watmough does briefly describe W.H. Auden's penis and refers to the "hammock-ubiquity" of sexually aroused sailors in the aftermath of World War II, the recollections in Myself Through Others mostly err on the side of discretion. He even spares Stephen Spender, "the most mendacious predator it has been my misfortune to meet," by ultimately thanking Spender for enabling him to meet Raymond Chandler.

We learn he and his partner Floyd St. Clair once met a paranoid Tennessee Williams during a dinner party at Max Wyman's house and he recalls having a park bench conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt. Irked by sometimes being mistaken for Dylan Thomas, Watmough chooses to accord Thomas only one paragraph, rather than a chapter, but he does describe watching Pierre Trudeau cut up his children's food in an Ottawa restaurant while Margaret chatted with her parents. Although his list of his contacts included T.S. Eliot, Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Wallace Stegner, actress Jean Arthur and politician Clement Atlee, Myself Through Others amounts to a slim book with a wide range.

Following the death of Floyd St. Clair in January of 2009, David Watmough reaffirmed his adherence to a notably English style of writing--once criticized by George Fetherling as "faux Victorian"--by releasing a volume of sonnets with "inborn Cornish Rhythms." As stated in his publisher's promotional materials, "Drawn from nature, literature, human foibles and gay culture, Watmough's sonnets, while loosely related to those of Milton, are humourous, ironic and authentic."

This work was followed by more sonnets in Eyes and Ears of Boundary Bay, announced in 2009 but published in 2010. A press release stated, "The poems in Eyes and Ears of Boundary Bay are both lyrical and reflective, forming a discreet narrative stretching from immediate experience to distant memory. David Watmough cultivates a small garden of human experience, within the discipline of fourteen lines. Passionate and ironic, these poems are a testament of a life fully lived and realized through art."

Some of Watmough's most honest and poignant poetry was written after he moved to Crofton Manor in Kerrisdale, shifting into a 'sonnet a day keeps the doctor away' pattern of sending his keen observations to friends. These missives were often non-sentimentalized but spirited reflections on ageing: "Life perceived devoid of memory is aught but ruse." Watmough collected them for an e-book in 2013.

Asked in 2014 as to why he had gravitated to the sonnet form, he said. "Since accepting the geriatric guise, I chose the Miltonian sonnet because it allows me to retain the fictional urge towards story while clinging to artistic completion. Age restricts quantity, poetry demands quality!"

CITY/TOWN: Vancouver

DATE OF BIRTH: 1926

PLACE OF BIRTH: London. U.K.

ARRIVAL IN CANADA: 1959

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Cornish yeoman farmers

AWARDS: Canada Council, B.C. Arts

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Songs from the Hive (Iguana Books 2013) ebook
Eyes and Ears of Boundary Bay (Ekstasis 2010) $16.95 978-1-897430-45-3
Myself Through Others (Dundurn 2008) 978-1-55002-799-0
Geraldine (Ekstasis Editions 2007) 978-1-894800-99-0
Vancouver Voices (Vancouver: Ripple Effect Press 2005) $15.99 1-894735-09-9
The Moor is Dark Beneath the Moon (Beach Holme 2002)
Hunting With Diana (Pulp Press 1996;
The Time of the Kingfishers (Pulp Press 1994)
Thy Mother's Glass (HarperCollins 1992)
The Year of Fears (Mosaic 1988)
Vibrations in Time (Mosaic 1986)
Fury (Oberon 1984)
The Connecticut Countess (New York: The Crossing Press 1984)
Unruly Skeletons (1982)
Collected Shorter Fiction of David Watmough: 1972-82 (1982)
No More Into the Garden (Doubleday, 1978)
Love & The Waiting Game (Oberon, 1975)
From a Cornish Landscape (Padstow, Cornwall: Lodenk Press 1975)
Ashes For Easter and Other Monodramas (Talonbooks 1972)
Names for the Numbered Years: Three Plays (Vancouver: Bau-Xi Gallery 1967)
A Church Renascent: A Study in Modern French Catholicism (London: S.P.C.K 1951)

Editor of:

Vancouver Fiction (Polestar Press 1985)

[BCBW 2017] by Alan Twigg

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Vancouver Fiction

The Moor is Dark Beneath the Moon
Press Release



"After decades in Canada, Davey Bryant returns to Cornwall, England, for the funeral of a mysterious relative and lands in the middle of a property-inheritance squabble that threatens to escalate into something far worse. Distraught by the changed landscape of his beloved homeland, Davey wanders the lonely moors and is soon sleuthing his way through a farce of megalithic proportions in which a midget couple driving a Morris Mini van might or might not be reincarnations of an evil Camelot dwarf and his consort. In the course of his investigations, Davey becomes ever more dislocated in time as he tries to fathom the nature of a gay family tree that besides himself may include a spinster aunt and a good-looking teenage cousin named Quentin. Magic's in the air, and it's not just the glint of the BBC cameras shooting a mini-series about Merlin and King Arthur in Tintagel. As Davey says about the moors, "Lots of things have died out here. And not just bodies, but hopes and strange loves. Nothing is really quite as it seems." -- Beach Holme

5.25 X 8.25 Trade paperback 224 pp ISBN 0-88878-434-1 $18.95 CDN $14.95 US


Sights Unseen (Ripple Effect Press $15)
Article



Veterans David Watmough and Dona Sturmanis are among the contributors to Sights Unseen (Ripple Effect Press $15), another anthology of new writing edited by David Samis. Samis one of four co-founders of an enterprise that has managed to coordinate its third annual B.C. Alternative Writing and Design Contest.

[BCBW Winter 2003]

Article



David Watmough's eight books of fiction, including his new novel The Year of Fears (Mosaic $17.95 $8.95), have all been written in Vancouver and published in Canada. "I think Canadian, feel Canadian, and find it quite impossible to regard myself otherwise," says Watmough, who emigrated in 1949.

Yet Cornwall-raised David Watmough continues to find himself referred to by reviewers as a 'transplanted Englishman'. Ironically, in a place called British Columbia, where BritLit was once the preferred cultural norm, a British accent can now be detrimental to a writer's reputation.

"Part of me--the robust, creative side of me--welcomes the prickly thorns and the persistent reminder that I will always remain an outsider from the Canadian Literary Establishment," says Watmough.

"The other side of me--the less intransigent, softer side--has admittedly been tempted in the past to return to the United States where my sales are higher, my reviews more positive, and where my birthplace hardly rates a mention."

Significantly, Watmough' s new novel is about tolerance and intolerance. The Year of Fears has a San Francisco Bay area setting in the year 1953 when the McCarthy Hearings were in full swing. It's a story of immigrant adaptation against a backdrop of witchhunting, bigotry and smear-campaigns.

"Even if I know that in the eyes of many of my compatriots I can never be as Canadian as the native-born--unlike the American immigrant's experience--I can find imaginative sustenance from that sense of ultimate exclusion to feed my fiction and to remind my homosexual character, Davey Bryant, that belonging is a luxury denied a very great many throughout this dislocated century of ours."

Prior to the 1960's, being born in Britain was clearly advantageous for a writer. Would we have been so impressed by Roderick Haig-Brown or Malcolm Lowry in the 1940' sand 1950's had they hailed from Spuzzum? But the winds of cultural chauvinism have shifted and Watmough, whose semi-autobiographical character Davey Bryant has carried him through eight books, is now writing against the wind.

"When a native Canadian woman reviewer, writing from the cultural heartland of Toronto, refers to me as a 'transplanted Englishman', it is comparable to taking a cold shower: useful in alerting all one's senses of survival but not something to be desired too frequently."

"If I have a lot of Jewish friends as well as the expected gay ones, perhaps the reason is not too hard to find."

One of of Watmough's closest literary friends is the dean of Canadian literary critics, the 'transplanted' George Woodcock. Although born in Winnipeg, Woodcock was raised in England (and was named in honour of the English novelist George Meredith). The second volume of Woodcock's autobiography, Beyond the Blue Mountains (Fitzhenry & Whiteside $29.95), recalls Woodcock's remarkable early years in B.C. when he homesteaded in Sooke, was enamoured of Doukhobor idealism, met Earle Birney and commenced editing Canadian Literature at UBC.

[BCBW Spring 1989]


Thy Mother's Glass (HarperCollins)
Info



DAVID WATMOUGH CONTINUES TO break new ground. He is among the first generation of writers to anchor the gay experience in modern literature, and now some of his works are on CD. Vibrations: David Watmough Reads from his own Work (The Writer's Voice) will be released at the end of June, and the distributor hopes it will be the first in a series of CDs by Canadian authors. In addition, Watmough's tenth and "most ambitious" book of fiction involving his protagonist Davey Bryant, Thy Mother's Glass (HarperCollins) will be published this winter. Other new fiction this summer includes an epic fantasy novel set in the Orient, The Initiate Brother (Penguin $5.99), a first novel by Mountain Equipment Co-Op's training coordinator, Sean Russell. Pender Island's Michael Kenyon, author of Rack of Lamb, has published Kleinberg (Oolichan $11.95), the story of a woman's search for her origins, and of the corruption she uncovers, in a fictional prairie town. The 13th winner of Pulp Press' 3-Day Novel Contest, 0 Father (Pulp $8.95) is Bill Dodd's tale of Kevin Fitzpatrick, a single father and mystery writer who becomes entangled in a web of crooked cops, drug dealers and a murder, all while caring for his 3-year-old daughter. How's this for a plot (and biological) twist? "Aritha, a ravishing New Guinea girl (sic), is mistress to entrepreneur John Samson and his wealthy father Neil, and impregnated by both." That's how one reviewer describes the opening of this "spicy page turner" Dark Legacy (New Dawn $19.95), by retired accountant Norman Wise. This is the first book from New Dawn, a new Vancouver area publisher. With a movie version of her first novel Fieldwork still in the works, Maureen Moore's next novel, The Illumination of Alice Mallory (HarperCollins) is being released this summer.

[BCBW 1991] "Gay"


Geraldine
Publisher's Promo (2007)



Geraldine, David Watmough's eighteenth book and thirteenth of fiction, celebrates the pioneering and often turbulent years of a twentieth-century woman scientist from Victoria, B.C. through her life as a bio-chemist in Europe and North America.

In that sense it is a tribute to feminists of an era when they had to struggle
unceasingly to make their way in an implacably man's world. Such a journey,
both to seek recognition beyond gender, and to fight an obdurate patriarchy in
her elected world of medical science, was to strengthen an innate feistiness and leave inevitable scars. Such are not always endearing or remotely attractive. But it was a price that Geraldine and her generation of women warriors were quite prepared to pay. But this is more than a case of history. More than one man's tribute to what he has witnessed in his own lifetime, it is a novelist's portrait of a remarkable and singular woman, her role as mother and grandmother, and her anguish at senescence dimming recognition of her achievements and the humiliation of being regarded as just a snobbish and crazy old woman.

Myself Through Others, Memoirs
Review



Unfortunately David Watmough does not reveal much of himself through others in Myself Through Others, Memoirs (Dundurn $24.99).

As the first homosexual writer out of the closet in British Columbia in the late 1950s, David Watmough will disappoint anyone looking for a racy tell-all a la Frank Harris, My Life and Loves. Not an autobiography, this is a tell-some, with only occasional lapses into pique.

Although David Watmough briefly describes W.H. Auden's penis and refers to the "hammock-ubiquity" of sexually aroused sailors in the aftermath of World War II, the recollections in Myself Through Others err on the side of discretion.

Watmough even spares Stephen Spender, "the most mendacious predator it has been my misfortune to meet," by ultimately thanking Spender for enabling him to meet Raymond Chandler.

We learn he and his partner Floyd St. Clair once met a paranoid Tennessee Williams during a dinner party at Max Wyman's house and he recalls having a park bench conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt. Irked by being mistaken for Dylan Thomas sometimes, Watmough chooses to accord Thomas only one paragraph, rather than a chapter, but he does describe watching Pierre Trudeau cut up his children's food in an Ottawa restaurant, while Margaret chatted with her parents.

The list of his contacts includes T.S. Eliot, Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Wallace Stegner, actress Jean Arthur and politician Clement Atlee. But this amounts to a slim book with a wide range, an exercise in literary cruising.
978-1-55002-799-0

[BCBW 2008] "Memoir"


Dressing up the Loneliness
ipad message, Christmas, 2010



DRESSING UP THE LONELINESS

Indubitably peals through the legends and the lights;

The Carols and the Christmas food bring familiar delights.

But behind the holly and the berries, the illuminated tree,

Are the thorns of isolation, the forlorn of the lonely.


I see sad eyes behind the endless Noels,

The covert bent head at those bells that also toll.

A rictus becomes wince when Nazareth so often is proclaimed,

It is not salve for all when homes glow with multicolored flame.


Isolation haunts great human solidarity.

The vast expanse can be the lacunae of accumulated joy.

This not just Satan's cruel constancy,

But the way the human tribe it's fates deploy.


There never will be constancy in the joys and tears that we would share.

It is not the calling of our striven race to find unity over even prayer.


DAVID WATMOUGH, December,21, 2010
VANCOUVER, BC

Sent to BC BookWorld from iPad



Night & Day
A poem for New Year's, 2010



NIGHT AND DAY

Our fingers cannot match the stealthy ligaments of sun.

Compassion is the unique quality we have with which to overcome.

Like so much in mankind's seeking physical mastery,

The effort's mainly from the mind and soul for victory's primacy.


"Puny" is apt for both our muscles and our gait.

When we mortals sniff we only get a whiff - and hearing's second-rate!.

Creatures of the night we truly ain't!

In daylight it's the brain we must celebrate


Yet our species loves whacking pucks, on kicking leather balls, and swimming like demented toads.

We aim to emulate our rivals like the eagle and the dove.

But our steel wings so often crash, kill folk and smash our homes.

The blunt truth is that only dreams fulfill our final goals.


But the ultimate glory of our race is inconsistency.

The striving in our myriad futile fights each day spells moral victory.


DAVID WATMOUGH VANCOUVER BC
December 30, 2010


Not Wasting Away In Sonnetvillle
sonnets



OLD AGE AS TROVE (A SONNET)

I never saw a goldmine in Seniors' years.
Rather a lethal minefield I saw for me awaiting.
Until the Hive's embrace, age spelt only fears.
I loved ancient ruins: geriatrics hating.

I confess to more disgust at seeing oldies massed.
(Snow is meant for mountain peaks and not on every head).
Croaking speech and hunched backs were also no redress.
Took me time to seek quick minds amid the near-dead.

But finally found treasure mid my blind and deaf friends.
My wits stirred: old age no longer stood as foe.
I love outrageous opinions that we find we blend
and repartee that gathered years makes glow.

I have made friends here in this prior cemetery.
But more important, they've made friends of me!

DAVID WATMOUGH. VANCOUVER. BC
MAY 2, 2012


BULLRUSH POET (A SONNET)

Two unsung books and lots more sonnets now departed me.
And still I feel a Moses baby hid away.
Pride punctured after a life of fiction and concomitant publicity.
A score of volumes clutched when entering The Hive for final days

Yet I remain a stranger in this world of verse:
Quantities I read without a grain of empathy
Poetry really prose in pretty lines, or never terse.
Reviews alien in degree of love or animosity.

This other cosmos views rhyme with dismay;
Though suffers alliteration to excess.
My rhyming verse seen as most perverse today.
My anecdotal subject matter just a frivolous mess.

So in parting this solipsistic gripe over my elected vein,
I ask no pity - just watch an old dog bite and bite again!

DAVID WATMOUGH. VANCOUVER BC
The un-Merry Month of June. 2012

CRISES (A SONNET)
(for Alan Twigg)

Old age can galvanize the scream." I've lost my comb!"
(While "you are dying" might merely squeeze a groan.)
The perspective of details whether prime or merely whim,
Can be dented by senility's ineluctable spin.

Noise and it's versions render crises in like way.
Is that an earthquake or a stranger at my door?
Is it still Summer - or this an early Fall day?
Here in the Hive, such trivia for some is law!

Not that the elderly are unaware that such idiocies thrive.
Indeed, a False Alarm yields antics that make startled sheep seem sane.
Then half the inmates never hear those clanging chimes,
And for the rest, the loud din's just a Management game,

To summarize the general crisis tactics of the old:
Small facts swell, The giant ones? just another bloody cold!

DAVID WATMOUGH. VANCOUVER. BC
September 11th. 2012


DEATH & HIBERNATION (A SONNET)

We humans are so prone to think that death's our very own.
Hibernation for the lesser breeds is to avoid cold icy snares.
True, our funerals have become extended phony poems
And hibernation, we superciliously say, is brief winter for the bears.

What we have done to death is just a scaffolding for paranoids.
Poison for the craven who have always feared the dark.
Requiems an apt salute: its the heavenly jargon to avoid.
Dormice,bears and hedgehogs don't play purgatory larks.

If we could substitute extended sleep for diurnal choreography,
Cut down on boring snow, gruesome accidents and excessive nights.
Have gestation during hibernation like some female ursine company.
Then , with less time to waste, we'd acquire less mundane sights.

So there's a task ahead for those who see years as more than time to piss.
Skip notions of immortality; learn to slowly sleep away the winter solstice.

DAVID WATMOUGH. VANCOUVER
Last Day of Summer, 2012


ON HEARING A RABBIT SCREAM (A SONNET)

The most devastating sound in my youthful days?
A trapped rabbit's scream of pain.
A hind leg shattered, eliciting a high pitched rave.
Rabbits rarely emit that sound I pray I'll never hear again.

A knife/glass purr compared to what I heard!
A noise that Nature was reluctant this species e'er emit.
The rabbit died as did the conscience at my core.
Paid for my corpse, I flung off the evil I had newly knit.

Here in my dotage, guilt surfaces once more,
My use of gin-traps made to maul.
That unholy bunny sound as loud as yore,
Collective years resurface that obscene sore.

Nature has its shibboleth as powerful as our own.
I pen this foul memory rather than just groan.

[December 29, 2013]


TRAVEL (A SONNET)

My brief trips are confined within my head.
(Others like to really roam.)
The Hive is meant for standing up and later stay-a-beds,
The world we left was hot to trot before the
brake of body's groans.

I don't need geography to make my travels joy.
I did the planning when I lived under another sun,
When brochures in Pygmy print couldn't content destroy,
When a thousand eyes and craning necks
Could not rob Florence of sites to gaze upon.

Now I walk the other caves that live below my whitening hair,
I feed my sonnets with images I've seen, or are gifts from travelling friends.
I pick and choose with immoral flaire.
Some themes have wrong towns but I'll not make amends!

Travel, once escape, is now just yeast for my creative thrall.
Proud I am to have such treasures first at my beck and then my call.

DAVID WATMOUGH VANCOUVER
January 26, 2014 (A dull Sabbath!)


HOLDING PEN
(A Sonnet)

So many metaphors for where they house
the old.
But "holding pen" is devilishly apt.
Our final before the abyss foretold.
Collected, we vary only 'twixt those that chafe and those that nap.
The variant colours and the diverse moans
fast lost in the turmoil of the herd.
I'm split between a poetry born of geriatric
foam,
And shame in sharing so many senile words.
The vague guilt is sprung from worn-out lungs,
While perfumes strive to hide incontinence,
The TV opiates confined within our rooms.
(Classic music too rare an antidote.)
Maybe we'll learn to live within our final cradle.
Perhaps sing lied and learn to read while still able.

David Watmough, Vancouver, BC.
Feb 27, 2014


AGE

How hard it is ,when old , to find a new page!
Fiesta! when creativity takes me further from my bier.
For a space my wrinkled flesh takes on a youthful glaze.
And on westcoast peaks and crevices finds momentary cheer.

Escape from the Hive's worn humanity,
Means other voices can hold sway
As words congeal I flee old age's noxious apathy.
Nature's diverse notes are now given play.

I listen to the love-croaks of my friend, the frog.
My nostrils flare to pelting rain upon the muddied earth.
(That softened soil a hallmark of Vancouver's sod.)
A stolen vista are the white-edged nimbus that hide my girth.

But harsh reality will know no final thwart.
Then back to senile bondage and the geriatric fort.

David Watmough,
May 31, 2014


Subject: I must quell the thrill of buying garments via cat

I must quell the thrill of buying garments via catalogs on the net.
Albeit, the waiting for huge packages brings ecstatic joy.
That I now possess more clothes than needed is a safe bet,
I must forgot the fun of anticipation for a new toy.

Ought to do with economy, everything of shaping final states,
Desiring no untidy litter of leftovers,
Nor a challenge for my mourners over sad debate.
By death I hope to have the sparse simplicity of clover.

This scene of final tidiness and calm is antidote to the world's ostentatious way.
I want no pomp; deride all lights and panagyric words.
So now's the time to trim while I rest in a bay.
(Though not to yield upheaval from my poetic surge !)

A quandary that's with me until I'm safely under soil
How to grow neatly senile as my stanzas still toil.

David Watmough,
November 15, 2014


GENDER CHOREOGRAPHY

Men trained early to answer questions..
Women likewise - but also ask them too.
Then females use words as social leisons,
Men find excessive talk their rue.

Below a woman's navel lies the glow of pregnancy.
The abdomen itself may one day nurse a stranger's cry.
For men the penis' function is mainly meant to pee.
But moist caress or fondle, sends semen to the sky!

With males' head, hair protects brain,
Their counterparts use it to reign.
For them a weapon in beauty's war,
On it spend fortunes; learn biblical lore.

Yet all these differences though facile to see,
Don't hurt what we share in humanity.

David Watmough
December 3, 2014


FINGERS

I never thought my fingers would end a crucial tool.
As slow sled-dogs they tackled typed keys,
(More ploughman than master of deft rule.)
Now weak digits dumb with some disease.

Ten nailed stumps stare up at me,
Pleading freedom from laptop choreography,
Inept for service to my body's pleas,
Palms that can clap - but end with digital futility.

Not just deaf to keyboard call for pressure,
But seek specific letters usually in vain.
Imaged keys so often unsolved metaphors,
Then my fingers no longer hear my brain...

Unlike wounds to the mind these appendages don't spell death.
Gestation slowed, but words still flow from obdurate breasts.

David Watmough
February 6, 2015






Songs from the Hive (Ekstasis Editions $22.95)
Article (2014)


from BCBW 2014
Born in 1926, David Watmough has written some of his most honest and poignant poetry since he moved to Crofton Manor in Kerrisdale, shifting into a "sonnet a day keeps the doctor away" pattern of sending his keen observations to friends. These missives are non-sentimentalized but spirited reflections on ageing: "Life perceived devoid of memory is aught but ruse." Watmough has collected many of them for his third volume of sonnets Songs from the Hive (Ekstasis Editions $22.95). 978-1-897430-96-5