• Steven Matthews



The way he roughly drilled

the inch thick support-battens,

measured up quickly,

not planing the rough-cut ends

or sanding the sharp shards

round the drill-holes,

then drove thick screws

through them into veneered

sides of the big-mirrored dressing table

and matching heavy chest-of-drawers,

wedding gifts to them

that had stood solid till

that morning, side by side

at the end of their double bed,

and now lost, outsize,

in my small room,


as he drove more, thick-whorled screws

now strongly downward

into the batten-wood

through the thick panel

he’d cut from an engine

packing case at work,

then slopped thin varnish on,

too matte against the fake

golden-brown wood-rings of

the furniture’s sheened veneer,

a make-do crude desk

with rickety kitchen chair

where I was to do my work.



The blue rod


It stood for weeks, propped in a garage-corner,

passed on by a friend who didn’t want it.

Then, one evening I’d fretted in bed,

pleaded with them to let me spend pocket

money to buy it weights, hook, and float,

so we could go fishing Dad’s first weekend

off work. And we did set out along

Clacton pier, sea-water glittering

beneath its thick planks. We paid the day-rights

to fish, then balanced the rod against the rail

to tie on the float, lead weights, and hook

baited with worms from the angler’s store.

With dreams of a free fish dinner, Mum’s praise,

he held my hands round the rod, helped me make

the first cast. Only for the reeling line

suddenly to catch, and float, hook, weights

to shoot onwards, as the line broke at

a minute knot. Gear lost, day-rights fee

non-returnable, our heads-hung walk

carried the useless blue rod home.




The swim was a muse, a steady strong pace;

locked-in thoughts, reflections across water,

till one stroke raised a triple-Medusa-

bracelet of pain, brown foliage tentacle

snaked up the forearm, thousand-needle jag

bringing the horizon crashing inwards,

whip-welts stone-sore down to this hand writing,

and, on the next swim, the ache of lurid

feeler-marks at their return to the sea. 



Handing back the key


By the time you got the key to that door

back to me, the door itself had vanished,

together with the keyhole, hinges, wall –

all of it chucked away, to clear the space

for the humming new glass-walled offices.


Now I shift on that brass key from jacket

to jacket, and grasp hold of it entering

empty rooms or walking over bridges,

in case I ever need it to open

some lock in the air, and step across.