Wasp Nest in a Bowler Hat
Domine Dirige Nos
My Queen, Governors and fellow drones,
on this most arid of mornings
our new city hums in hexagonal cells. This very day,
the manufacture of paper increases exponentially.
Our vaults, and each of us, are filled with common purpose.
All futures are of course larval and we know
incidence of sting can go up or down,
yet we still promise always to pay the bearer in full.
Let this be the year of wasps, high summer
sustainable with the endless ooze of sugars;
the entitlement of wasps. Buzz with risk.
Go now, take your commission: al fresco breakfasts
of pastries and jam, then golden picnic afternoons.
Levy ice cream from the lip of every man, woman and child.
The Treason of Images
Looking up from a book of bucolics
whilst sipping my smooth-blend coffee
(two sugars, sprinkles and frothed whole milk),
I saw this pigeon break cover from a tree.
You could see it happening: the Columbidae
reared higher, then dropped its payload of shit
on some middle-manager, Mr Urbanity
himself in his tailored, pin-striped suit
who just happened to be passing below.
I laughed. He didn’t. Avoiding his glare I glanced
back to the pigeon, tried to follow
its flight. But by some strange circumstance
when that bird disappeared behind a building
what flew from the other side, further out,
was like thought flown to clairvoyance; engineering
harnessed into dove-grey of an RAF jet.
Look, I know this sounds like pure contrivance
but it’s true. Shit really is so simple.
And it’s no matter if you look at me askance:
any grievance is your own quibble.
Anyway, after that I closed my book.
Nature writing’s everywhere, like crap.
Just as a tick can’t be coaxed
back from a bite, out from under
the skin, where its burrowed head
is so compelled and drawn to taste,
I won’t deny that when you look at me,
face to face, there’s still that little stick
and twitch, that tell-tale nervousness
about your lower left eyelid.
Concerning the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Living Creatures
Whilst accepting the findings of vivisection,
all the openings of dogs, eels, toads and ravens,
mysteries of the heart and blood of man remained.
Now hastened to Court was a young noble who had fallen,
fracturing ribs on the left side of his breast;
Providence brought abscess, putrefaction left such a void
that before them was the living heart,
its ventricles in pulsation
only part eclipsed in the zodiac of a chest.
Via simple observance, the beating seat of a soul,
all feeling of a loyal subject in microcosm,
and the full heat from this little sun sworn to the King’s.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Anatomy,
master of the dark side of the healer’s art,
directed the King’s own hand into the wound.
Three fingers and the Royal right thumb then divined,
found only muscle, working, devoid of all sense or deference;
the noble remained unmoved as if untouched.
Whilst physicians rhapsodised at this organ,
its clear function, active only when expelling blood,
the King retired to his private chamber,
proclaimed some malady from the waxing moon,
chilled as if a run of elvers were slithering to his nape
and the head pounding with a sudden baying of hounds.
Matt Howard lives in Norwich, where he works for the RSPB. Matt is also a steering group member of New Networks for Nature, an eco-organisation that asserts the central importance of landscape and nature in our cultural life. His debut pamphlet, The Organ Box, was published by Eyewear.
Image credit: Peri Apex