Poetry | Chris Matthews
(scroll down for poems)
I started to immerse myself in reading and writing poetry to a greater extent in around 2014. Since then I’ve had a few poems published, and won a few awards too, notably Category 2 of Beaumont Park’s Beautiful Poetry Trail Competition (in association with Huddersfield Literature Festival 2016). My influences, or at least the poets I favour most are Michael Longley, W. B. Yeats, and Sylvia Plath, amongst others.
At the moment I’m very interested in Modernism and have started a series of short stories. Of course I still write a lot of poetry and update the poems listed below as often as possible.
A Yemeni Couple
They sprinkled hearts on their backs that morning.
A tray of little ones to let the love seep in.
Pure, innocent. Bound together by this love.
They might make the morning paper.
Settled in the heat, the immortal couple.
Our people worried when others
ventured north for their honeymoon.
We don’t want your love here,
scoffed the populists.
Our politicians decreed it disgraceful.
Why should they need to leave their hometown?
The little hearts swell in the heat.
Perched on the street corner
a little rock thrush trembles.
He asks where his home is, he’s lost.
The little hearts are full now.
Unable to slam in all their love,
some drips to the earth.
That little rock thrush stutters in the corner
as our companies replenish their stock
for the next offering to the oil king.
I thought my periphery vision was tugged
to the front of my eyes when
I struggled to find the oak
from my window. Past scratching grass and
telephone post and the
box of little transformers (like bottle stops) attached to it.
All hushed, as if we weren’t
allowed to see
the scene pushed back by
Maybe the ash was afraid
to show how bare it was.
But I imagine it there,
even if it hides in the mist.
in cloaks of electricity.
Six strung bliss
as tension between the edges
Then in this mist I’ve
hidden solace or self-understanding;
vanity, or reflection.
perhaps only observation.
I imagine his presence.
Wanting to glide in a
reflection of the dust and of
the tree speckled valley.
Wanting to be shrouded in
And I want to be obscured
When I open it out to see the
creases they’ve made,
I lose control. Packed into my veins, taut slithers –
I was driven.
The window was open and almost –
and then I can see it.
Buried lines (cut out for acceptance),
Unable to strive.
I wanted her to hold my head
in her lap again
so I might feel something.
I can sit against the pillows
with the low slanted ceiling
surrounding my window
and in the September night
glance out at the plough
and the hay bales beneath me
and at the edge of the ash
and even though the town is close
I know it’s not interested in these
dimly glowing walls
and my chest of drawers
and my little blue bamboo chair.
Then this is my compact delight.
Screeches in my head
And I’d clutch my duvet
as if it could be forgotten.
And back and a few moments more
but I cannot wait again.
It drips quietly from the radiator.
Shelves packed, and the postcards
I used to collect cling to the wall
with waning Blu-Tack.
I want to harness it but my quivering knuckles ruin my lines.
It’s pooling on the carpet.
Nothing used; I return, I resume.
Each sequence of creaks is the same.
When I was light enough to scamper
that sequence would slide through my chest –
an adult approaching. My book would
plunge to nothing,
and only my little clenched hands
reassure me of its existence.
This evening as I climb to my room, weary,
those same creaks sound,
and even though I know this to be my effect
that sequence glows and tumbles
to my chest.
Trembling, I falter, and realising my lost self,
am even more frightened than my younger being.
I’d wait for him to fall,
but choking on his hairy throat
he couldn’t push back to absence,
and maybe his gentle limbs sobbed
even while driving – grinning and glancing
at every wavelet,
nothing is quenched, nothing satisfied.
We spent a while anchored, gazing
at a mountain similar to Isandlwana
and slowly dropping to where
she spread with arms on her eyes
and her toes drooping to the ocean over
the edge of her yellow lilo.
………..Back past the boulders
………..to the rocks and the lone tree:
………..a bulb-like thing embedded at the top.
Her skin went unnoticed by the heat.
Her soft heart, trembling little toes,
and her restless murmuring, lost off the land.
she seemed stretched above
the orange globule cities:
arms floating, back raised.
But I only thieved
A single shot, midweek, summer.
And it wasn’t a shoot. This wasn’t planned
but something scampered
and the gamekeeper’s reaction
turned my eyes away.
My laptop claims ‘Sep’ but it could be June.
The garden’s saturated and
the magnolia still burdened with leaves,
but the giveaway’s the hay bales.
I might’ve slept all day
if it wasn’t for the heat
and the promise of a swim.
My heels propped up on the top of
a glass table, and there’s the rattling
whir of some farmer’s machine.
He’s blown all the pollen into a breeze.
I can almost continue now.
But my former mind is lost
and instead I’m cleansed with a sensitivity
that I haven’t seen this summer, not fully,
and I’m shocked that a gunshot created it.
The pheasant who used to sit on the hay bale has been replaced.
He is, I hear, being hunted down.
At the regal seat there is set to be someone new.
She has marked her run-up.
The neon pink stripes of her tracksuits
flash against the country colours and with a leap
she is perched where that pheasant ought to be.
She shouldn’t be a tweeded title. She is not a giggling slaughterer.
Her curls are faded flush against the royal blue of her hood,
and her hands roll a pathetic, white, flag.
Is it protection? For me, cooped up in here?
She has taken to chucking flint at the largest ash now.
Odd, how we feel embarrassed to watch this woman
play in silence, carefree in the field.
Odd, how I think she might turn and see us peering from the window.
To prove the boredom are her very actions:
of trying to roll the bale,
of doodling in the earth with her flag,
of star jumps in the January air.
It was better to protect the onlookers
by clutching your flag
than to cheer on the death-squads.
Some tweeded beaters have swarmed upon her.
She’s dropped the flint
and ceased to stretch her thighs,
plodding with her limp flag instead.
Unknowing of my observation, she is gone.
We retain the memory.
She seemed dignified,
like her plumaged predecessor:
a lonesome being guarding the bale,
……………..soon forced to flee.
Winning poem of The Queen’s Gold Medal for Verse (Winchester College)
It’s not the accepted prettiness.
Nor the age-old trunks and surrounding shrubs.
It isn’t the sweet stench of the moss on the earth
or the sprouting fungi about the ground.
Not even the odd rasp of a jay.
Only the timeworn stones who are motionless,
and gentle. The purest snowdrops and sprawling ivy
wrestle for a home by those structures and this is it.
This is the seasonal attraction
which draws us in and lets us perceive
alone, and quietly.
Winning poem of Category 2 of Beaumont Park’s Beautiful Poetry Trail Competition (in association with Huddersfield Literature Festival 2016).
Location 17 on the Poetry Trail at Beaumont Park, Huddersfield
We spoke of the trembling line –
We’ve vainly driven it too far.
Plastered on speckled mountains
Their city slouches encircled
With this useless envy swirling towards us.
No people on that place, yet we taste their abject, unseen, silence.
A trembling line
of sharpened streaks that curled around her hair.
The tiny plodding behind the gap,
a vision of denim shins.
And little fingers steeped in feeling
amongst her other mumblings.
And shrunken cymbals
on wrist-bound mitts,
When the grime was too high
and experience absent.
Yet twisting back, the ruby line,
Shining between the broken smog
and grasping wisps of oiled taste –
a youthful iridescent want.
Who are the Jellymen?
They sit in the corner
or slouch on the greasy walls
and view the fallen men
with tooth picks
and charcoal jackets.
Always staring at us.
Waiting for something.
As if I were to understand.
Maybe kind, or possibly sinister,
the Jellymen, like some faction,
crowd to watch the dead
in a bar of grey beers.
we wait for them.
It’s fine that we prolong existence.
In fact, they think it fantastically beautiful.
Sometime they’ll lead us to other bright nothings,
but that it’s far off is the result of our triumphs.
A moment alone
My legs below my shoulders
(As ever but more sturdy now),
And my arms drawn down and poised
With Armitage Shanks in front of me.
At head-height the previously cream,
But now rusty window is drawn back
And I look out of my observation post
At the November scene in mid July.
The sky gushes on the thick leaved trees
And shrubs drip quietly.
Shaking the drips to dry myself
I’ve an impulse to lean and be duped
by a dark romance of clouds to think it’s Winter.
But, ever anxious to return, I neglect the unknown attraction.
Deserted, the act of smearing hollow gutters
And sponging cracked moss continues, oblivious.
Vast and grey-scale, a fungus curves across the sky
but is unremarkable.
Little birds are swaying in that expanse
by choice. Ruddy chimneys sit cold atop
dented and tiled roofs of warping English homes.
Our classroom windows are cloudy with droplets of dry dirt
and golden spherical reflections hang in front of an indifferent October.
If I could marry this depressed scene,
if I could throw an enlarged self
on the aerials and gutters and engulf it,
then angels would shriek to Aeolian shudders.
I could live in such nothing of a moment. Would I? Would I?
No god has found an instant that can outlive him,
but here is such: Untouchable and Dead.
Soft morning air – warm and listless like breakfast coffee –
wafts about those gold circles.
And my constricted eyeballs ache, for choice.
Published by United Press in 2016
Rushed, the Land Rover mothers scream at the wheel
And stretch their toes to the huge pedals
And flick the meat off their molars from this morning
And slap that toy from Tommy with their left hand
And skid across the corner
As a pigeon wanders beside the fence.
It looks to the kite above,
Pondering on how he is allowed to eat from the road,
While rolling its neck elegantly
And slowly strutting to the stile
That leads to the Common.
The old post box has been lonely for a while now
As even the elders can smack their fingers on a screen.
At least the trains still run and the evening is snug.
Published by United Press in 2016
Somehow the umber leaves have packed together and the trees
Stretch about the sky as if bound to the emptiness.
The pigeons scratch under the clogged gutters
And the evening sky is pale blue-grey, with hints of sulphur.
Quiet people are building a house in the distance
But their fingers tremble in the darkening silence
And their ears curl to the earth.
A man drives, shouting to Slade,
And the shops advertise puddings.
Still the humming clouds, silvery, unflustered,
Are in their frozen homes secretly weeping.
The leaves are set to rot to a pulp
And the weathermen wince at last.
The sulphur light has frozen.
The smeared, blue-black, concrete sky spreads at last,
And yawns to the silent chill.
I still remember the charcoal Deltas
Concealing a lively chest,
That brushed against a beating
Soul, silk on velvet pressed.
No swell could cheat
The seamless knot
And under a lilac descent,
Died, craving her consent.
And like the dregs of her tropical fruit juice,
Deep violet hints lurk above
And golden whispers stroke the ether
And slender spirits caress
………..The wondering, fluttering dove.
His body lay among the winter heliotropes on a mountain side
But from above he saw on the Earth his disturbance
And patted his tear and stroked his cold cheek with whispers
And so sent away the waters to the hollows of our eyes.
The Gateway City
Sweat will fall in an eye and shut it to the world-
Just so the burning light is forced to hide by the drop of hazy twilight.
The Cardinals strut onto the flat-screen to the air-con’s whining cry
And water sits at the state periphery beyond the balcony edge.
And who needs the poets now? The wanderers and the artists
Cannot exaggerate this perfection, this wicked solitude.
The rough outside is smoothed by panel glass.
The thin curtain silences the murmuring light
Which plunders the obscurity of
Our night. Of our seclusion. Of our tranquil isolation.
Stormtrooper In Drag
Off his head, holding that mic.
He took that smile of his face.
Gardiner is smug with this number.
Did number 8 make the name?
Perhaps. But why not? Why not?
Creativity is only an extended dream.
Like stretched balloons by the car wash
They might slowly swing their hips.
And smoke would mask the needles.
And the first cars grey the dawn.
And fuzzy morning news drawls.
And they get up, still sleepy:
Bodies haul themselves away.
Continue, dance where they lay.
‘Power is your Christ.
With us the Nation strives
With accurate strategy,
Making purposeful our lives.
Tales of mingled courage and glory
Are made for you to bring
Back home to little Harry
For when rain casts shadows on Spring.
So pick up a pen,
Bring the last logs in,
And head off, for the front of war.’
They did go out.
They did show valour
Under the gloomy Heaven
When howling heralded throughout.
Harsh shrieking -human or manufactured?
No one truly knew.
Now we can only try to envisage
The wake of Harm thrust on Earth.
And he saw. Along with the others, he saw
The soft earth churn, uncovering wounds of the past.
And yet that past was a matter of days.
How can those men have been so strong till the last
Shell implanted itself in the weeping globe?
The formulas and battle-plans didn’t foresee
This in their workings. Who but the divine could have seen?
So close he came, a week, a week:
Still primitive was the call to arms,
The screech of the signal was clear,
And his mother heard when singing psalms,
She heard on the ending day of that lengthy war, that smothering Fear.