Two poems by Mat Riches

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

 
 
 

    Captain’s Pond

 

I didn’t expect to find myself
beside you, swatting flies and leaves
to watch fishermen watching you

like I watched Dad that summer, his float
piercing the fly-busy surface
until a tench rose to the bait

and yanked his rod clear from its rest.
He sprang in, swearing at bubbles.
We laughed every tear we had left.

A warm spring rain’s starting to fall
on this new pontoon. Someone’s caught
something and it’s time to leave.

 
 
 

    from the Commencement Speech by the Chairperson at The Post-Surgery Club Conference

 

It’s been over thirty years since I joined
this community of the purest sleep,
waking up after corrective surgery

on a bunion, left leg in plaster.
My dues were paid with the running stitches
on top of my foot — I forget it’s there.

Some sign-ups are elective, but most are
thrust on unsuspecting or unwilling
participants jack-knifed at speed through glass

or those clutching hands to imploding chests,
or feeling the rush of minute bubbles
travelling in their blood for a second.

Our rules on the admission of newborns
for immediate lifetime membership
never fails to surprise or upset.

We’re not easy to spot, though we don’t hide,
and it can take time to learn the value
of wearing our insignia with pride.

Something as basic as catching a peek
through undone button or sleeve rolled too far
might reveal a fellow member’s presence

via an ellipsis on a forearm
or a zippered sternum. Our branding
is unique to owner and surgeon.

The scalpel-sharp irony of not having
our own waiting list isn’t lost on us:
the moment a stitch is made you’re in,

and the initiation ceremony
needs little more than counting down from ten
to take part in something you won’t recall

— and hope to avoid ever repeating.


 

Mat Riches

About Mat Riches

Mat Riches is ITV’s poet-in-residence. His work’s been in Dream Catcher, Firth, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg, Under The Radar, South, Orbis, Finished Creatures, Dreich, Fenland Poetry Journal, Atrium, And Other Poems and Obsessed With Pipework. He co-runs the Rogue Strands poetry evenings and has a pamphlet due out from Red Squirrel Press in 2023. He’s on Twitter as @matriches and blogs at Where The Fox Hat.