Two poems by Matt Howard

Matt Howard photo

 
 

    Cults of Broadland

 

Fen raft spider

 

Let us venerate niche and otherness,
local, patch-level occurrence –
take the fen raft spider’s
each simple eye, each leg hair sensing

the water’s tension. All his
drawn out care, a display of front legs
in arcs across the meniscus, that moving
slenderness, stop-start, from side to side.

She watches while he grooms.
Now receptive, they bob slowly.
And his front legs flicker,

vibrating all over her abdomen.
She draws herself in so he can roll them
on her back into their rippling.

 

Fen orchid

 

There are studies concerned with presence,
that harvest the mycorrhizal fungus
essential for germination and growth
at the Botanic Garden in Cambridge.

All I understand is as far as I can see –
June to July on a fen in Norfolk,
peaty mud staining my knees,

that yellowy-green, the broad-lip base leaf,
its blend-in with the part-chewed sward,
each little point off the one soft spike
set on this floating ground.
 
 
Milk parsley / swallowtail
7th – 11th July 2017
 
 
All cults must have their curses:
may this curse of losses befall
the bastard or bastards
who dug out milk parsley at Hickling,
taking with it as many as twenty
or more swallowtail caterpillars.

And may they one day, sometime soon,
find themselves again under the breadth
of a searing blue broadland sky,
in t-shirts and shorts, or better yet, topless
about their work, as the sap and hairs
of giant hogweed catch them,
so that they metamorphose
to a blistered imago,
all the shame bursting on their skin.

 
 

    Spores

 

They’d daub the navel
of each newborn
with fulmar oil,

a cliff-nester’s balm
easy to blame,
to latch on to

as the St Kildan midwives’
own infant lockjaw,
stored in gannet or sheep gut.

Either that or their blades,
unwashed and not first
passed through flame.

But what of all those before?
Those that rowed out,
cutting headlong into swells and gales

to open some westerly
ascetic distance,
some almost-disappearance

among a stink of fish and seafowl,
then lit beacons
from the highest point

just to say from among the breakers,
we are still here?
Whatever the life sought

there’s no loneliness
for the spirit
in this husbandry,

under starlight,
on this ground
where that bacillus blooms.

 
 

Matt Howard

About Matt Howard

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 first full collection, 'Gall', was published by The Rialto in 2018 and was winner of the 2018 East Anglian Book Award for Poetry and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Prize in 2019.