May – Lisa Matthews





This selection of work is taken from my on-going practice-led PhD research. Right now I am intrigued by poetic sequences and the effect/affect they have on both a poetry collection as a whole, and on the reading of individual poems. I am spending some time thinking about what a sequence structure can bring to, and take away from works-in- progress and a drafted/edited collection. Must each poem stand on its own two feet and work as an autonomous work of art, or can poems inhabit a shared, sequenced space that brings new layers of reading and meaning – and what about the spaces between sequences? The momentum, fragmentation and narratives arcs of sequences are huge canvases on which we can write, and of which we must be wary of. I wrote these poems in the first year of my PhD (I have just started my third, part-time year) so they are already two years old. Who knows what this sequence will be like, or how the poems will develop, as my writing progresses towards the completion of the collection that lies at the heart of my thesis. There may actually be at least two, perhaps three sequences gestating in this selection of work and I am very happy they have found a home in The Fat Damsel.




The new deck

Falling basket
and abundant dog

were two
of the cards

in the Tarot
she had made.

The table
was polished

and lately,
at certain times of day,

the way light fell
across the room,

she could see
the scratches

made that







Triptych addressed to you

Golden room

So, you forgot to close the blind.
Is it too much to ask that rules are observed ?
Is too much to expect that you’ll pick up the clues,
is it me or you being obtuse ?

all the whys and wherefores
all the tapping on the mantle
all the leavings by the door

Who is it who hates the smell of hyacinths ?
I can’t remember any more.

Lesser calf

of all the calves this one started out as the greatest / so we kept it / shining
and iridescent on the brow of the hill / its light illuminating the valley / it
was you and I who watched it / it was you and I who fed it and lead it to the
barn on the coldest nights / then it was gone, after three months of tending
only hoof prints left in the frozen earth / a stable door slamming, a propped
axe and fallen shingles / spring approaching but still so far away

Cotton house

Tell me to add starch to the water.

Tell me to darn cuff and hem.

Tell me this is some new kind of beginning.

Tell me this is not the end.







The blue

and fall of it.

The day tips away,
along the angle

of this memory.

Once we’re done
gather your things,

we must sing our songs
in other rooms,

you and I are complete, now
we are blue.









A dog with a blue bandana.

Two pigeons fighting
over the crust of a pizza.

Heavy rotor blades
in an empty street, flung open
to the weather.

It starts to rain.

Do you have your umbrella?

A door, metal-barred,
ejects a small crowd of men
in long blue aprons,

they look at the sky.


The quiet ones cross the boundary first,
their voices kept in tapestry bags in a locker room,
in another part of the world.

They link arms and watch the clouds for rain.

And if you see them – know this,
they will have seen you first and at your worst
this is their way, this is how it is.


The man was a signature down the middle of the street.

His collar a promise to obey and never stray.

His words and his hands sat in his lap.

He was a still centre of affected theft.

He was a ladder into the evening dark.

He had lied to us all as soon as look at us.

He was the silhouette in which we all hid despite of this.

He understood ice while we could not.

He went skating on the river in the dark.







Something like the sun

The bag of oranges slouches in the corner,
“it smells of oranges in here,” you say,
as if we both can’t see the bag in the corner.

I force the blunt square of my words,
into the full moon of your mouth.
I am never more proud of what we do and remember
that first time I looked at you: something
wonderful happened, something like the sun.

Now there is a bag of oranges in a corner,
there is a window and a cupboard and a door
and they are all slightly ajar, or standing open.








the last time she opened her eyes
they had been shut a long time

there was no sign of wrongdoing
there were other, indeterminate signs

it was quiet, like nothing had happened
what does happen when we look away?

she sensed the space between objects
don’t we need space, isn’t space necessary?

and, as she continued to occupy her life
is there any other life, she thought?

a jet flew overhead, its con-trail
exhausts and all their hot air

a line a white breath in the sky
co-ordinates in the vacuum







Edges of things

The hours stretch away in a thread.

It is meant to be morning but at this moment
there is not enough light to make out

the edges of things –

no wing blade or tail tip,

no dorsal-moments that minnow by in a blur of promise.

I remember the gaps in the wooden stairs,
I remember the yellow light bleeding through,

those wooden stairs that dovetailed together at their edges,
moveable bookends to hide in.







A wrought iron fence

and a line of warm steps,
north to south, east to west.

What was small and unformed
settled a long time ago,

joined the wall to the floor –
and there it grew.

Its eyes were blind but its ears
picked up everything:

needles snapping and clicking
in Szechuan province,

roof tiles being secured
in the projects of Cape Town,

the creak in the thresh
of your bedroom door,

the panel pins shifting in the dresser
when you stood on it –

the way the chair echoed
under your weight,

the fullness of quiet,
then the wait.




Lisa Matthews is a poet, freelance writer/writing tutor and a collaborative artist. She is one- half of the literary production company Literal Fish and is currently dividing her time 50/50 between her freelance work and her doctoral research at Northumbria University. Lisa has published three full collections of poetry and her most recent book “The eternally packed suitcase” was published by Vane Women Press in Dec 2015. Her next book – a full collection of prose poems – comes out with Red Squirrel Press late 2016/early 2017. Lisa is currently Lead Poet for the Northern Poetry Library (NPL) and with Melanie Ashby, she designed, developed and created NPL’s new digital platform.

My website:

Literal Fish website:

Northern Poetry Library: