THE DON WELCH DIGITAL ARCHIVE
The first printed edition of “Dutch” appeared in a 1968 issue of Colorado Quarterly and offers a rare instance of the poet directly addressing his father in a reverential yet ornery tone, praising a tough, quiet man by opening, “I think of you today,” yet confessing in the next stanza, “I know you better than you think I do,” and assessing later that Dutch has “rarely guessed the haunting I have done.”
Welch draws numerous distinctions between himself and Dutch, admitting his own shortcomings such as being “inept at dollar magic” and “small boned in the world’s arenas.” Though the speaker, the “son of a random gene,” may lack the charisma, athleticism, and assertiveness carried by the man who “traded horses under hood,” our poet engineers the vehicle of words, running “to closets of the mind” to “spool spirit out and on.” Though the piece stands on its own by giving “guts” to the powerful bones within “nerves’ dead center,” which it illuminates “beneath the big thick glass of memory,” the reader is called to recognize the familiar “blues and golds” of Dutch’ biography that populate so many of Welch’s other gems. Dutch’s painful surgeries, his post-coaching career as a car dealer, and his silent, flawless work with a “dead mallard” at his feet all dwell here.
Welch wrote elsewhere of his father that he “was a horse of a runner with the grace of a greyhound.” In this poem, Welch finally catches up with his father, setting his own pace with his signature harmony of velocity and ease, saying so perfectly for the rest of us what we think when our “eyes guess something which you cannot say.”