Three poems by Matthew Stewart

 
 

    Happy Birthday

 

…You clear them away, usher in
a future not featuring you.
Michael Laskey, 'Birthday Cards'

 

While hunting the posh cutlery
for my cousin’s annual visit,
I found them stowed in your sideboard,
opened one to declarations
of love next to a wobbly heart
drawn by my primary-school hand.

That’s when I remembered the cards
from David I’ve hoarded myself
in a cupboard at home in Spain.
They’re stacked and waiting patiently
for a decade or three to pass
and his fingers to dig them out.

 
 

    Los domingos

 

You’ve taught me to sip a café solo,
to let its bitterness seep through my gums
and close the curtains on tapas and wine,
just as you’ve taught me to relish silence
in the slow, shared sliding-by of minutes.
 
I no longer force the conversation
these never-ending Sunday afternoons
while muffled westerns blink on the telly,
an ancient carriage clock fights to strike four
and my mother-in-law pours her water.
 
Perhaps this week she’ll suddenly repeat
her suspicion of a neighbour’s illness
or we’ll sit here without the need for words
till her husband stirs and cranks the volume
to signal kick-off at the Bernabéu.

 
 

    568ml

 

Stored in your cupboard for decades,
this malt vinegar has strengthened
while waiting for a battered cod.

Squat-shouldered, the bottle’s bossing
my ketchup, reeking of chippies
and flaunting its post-war label

as if nothing’s changed, as if pints
could ever defy their decline
into half a litre.

 
 

Matthew Stewart

About Matthew Stewart

Matthew Stewart works in the Spanish wine trade and lives between Extremadura and West Sussex. Following two pamphlets with HappenStance Press, both now sold out, his first full collection is 'The Knives of Villalejo' (Eyewear, 2017). He blogs at Rogue Strands: www.roguestrands.blogspot.com