Poems by Matt Bryden
After Daphnis and Chloe
You should have been a shepherd,
the wind and hair about your ears.
With a panpipe maybe,
gold where the wax binds
(of different lengths to show
how love is uneven)
– a token
of high birth.
Your skin would do well
in this olive country: breaking bread,
pressing a blade against cheese,
sat beside amphorae of wine
looking out on the clean coast.
Ram’s horns, dolphins, ivy…
Perhaps watching out for pirates and their abductions,
yes, but the air so clean and newly-made
you could make out a mast-head from 3,000 feet,
pinpoint the crackle of a fire
two kilometres down valley.
An absence of mirrors (but lakes to study the stars in)
no guard-dogs but geese. Athletes
make a norm of attending their muscles,
shower before shaving,
keep their biceps oiled and supple –
swim between the islands.
The sun so hot there is no choice
but to immerse yourself. To tire. To meet
each energetic impulse with its cool opposite.
Become one of those who shrug off the question,
‘Don’t you ever wish for anything more?’
with the sound of the goats, the tinkle of bells
about you, around you, a keeping stock.
Even as you don’t answer the question
the light playing in planes across your face.
I Lost My Igloo
It slipped through the gap
between my neighbours’ houses,
through my knees,
skittering across the school-bus floor
in the shade of the cherry and mango;
past the store I was sent for milk,
waited for the flap of the screen door;
the slope where, playing,
I was pitched
from a barrel onto broken glass.
Its capacity for holding ice
which melted slowly throughout the day,
its red or blue finish – such things
kept a Jamaican girl occupied.
I’d been told what would happen
if I lost it again. That Bible story
of a stone for a pillow. Should I
be the prodigal daughter after the stakes,
the tempers, climbed?
Perhaps they left the dog unchained
that time to learn me.
Now I sit in the same mid-distance,
one end of a road – this patch
of dust like a leash.
About the poet
Born and raised in Beckenham, Matt Bryden is an EFL teacher whose work has taken him to Tuscany, the Czech Republic and Poland. His poems have appeared in New Welsh Review, The Reader and The Warwick Review, among many others. His pamphlet Night Porter, which documents life in a Yorkshire hotel, was a winner of the 2010 Templar Poetry Pamphlet and Collection Competition. In 2012 he toured The Captain’s Tower, an anthology of poems to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 70th, around the country, reading poetry and accompanying himself on guitar at venues including the Latitude festival. As a translator, his versions of the Taiwanese poet Ami have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation and the full collection The Desire to Sing after Sunset. His first collection Boxing the Compass was published by Templar Poetry in 2013. You can find more of Matt Bryden’s work at: www.mattbryden.co.uk