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Thirties street photo.

And two more new poems.



So earnestly they walk, the dead,
the streets of their city, all suits
and fedoras, tie-pins straight,
glittery brooches perfectly pinned
on lapels of winter coats,

a few cars lingering at kerbs,
cheerful groups in the cafés
not noticing the singing
sweep of light shining down on
tattering posters for long-gone

reruns of scratch-flecked movies,
that light stark in the hollows
between the new high-rises,
light offering all they will be
distilled into, walking in it.

Red Rust



How many bodies rust in remote fields —
wheel-less cars, vans, huge lorry containers,
even slumped caravans, train carriages
stand awkwardly where sheep and horses crop,

and where wild grasses steadily grow through
gaps, as hubs, roofs, floors fall away
dyeing the earth they grow into.


You often seemed to be patching,
cutting away infected areas
in our car doors or the front wings,

welding wire mesh into the holes,
riveting steel you’d moulded over,
then roughly applying red sealant,
carefully brushing body-paint.

But brush-strokes and rivets stood out
clear as day. We were always shamed
when we parked our cobbled-together
botch beside the gleaming new models.


(after Yeats)


At Sandymount, tide’s turn. You stare
amazed as small waves roil across
the bay into the brown-gloom shore,

but, at landspit’s edge, see counter-
channels, as the wind’s steady pulse
works in the other direction—

water runs alongwith itself,
one surge striving fast shoreward,
one out to a now-lapis sea.


Another visit. Climbing the sloped path
toward the Care Home’s automatic doors
you hear the flapping corporate banners
shouting hopeful slogans through the car-park—

their noise fronts the dense quiet beyond those door-panes,
ghost-frail bodies shrunk in armchairs,
dry lips crying them out unawares.


I spent that long morning
struggling to cut dead wood
from the heart of the bush,
alternating between
clippers, pruner, and saw
to snap age-brittle branch
or rotten leafless bough,
the rhythm of the job
working me into daze
which ignored for slow hours
the evidence of life
resting inches from eyes
or flash of my sharp blades —
the small nest neatly cupped
in the lee of the branch
that was the last I strained
to cut off, a sun-gleam
suddenly discovering
feather-strewn artistry
through blessed space between
leaves long labour opened.

STEVEN MATTHEWS is a poet and critic from Colchester, Essex. He has published three poetry collections: Skying (Waterloo Press, 2012); On Magnetism (Two Rivers Press, 2017) ; and Some Other Where (Two Rivers Press, 2023).

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