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Four Poems by Matt Howard

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.

 

 

Tic

 

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

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