Two poems by Mat Riches

 
 

    Ash

 

He found out I smoked the day I went off
to university, and disapproved,
of course, but nothing he could do or say.

Although, he did, often. He’d have hated
seeing us sitting around the fireplace
using a bowl as an ashtray, blowing

smoke up the chimney, drinking his best wine
after the cremation and wake. We’re laughing
at stories from the boat trip where he yelled

“I’ll cut you in half” at someone who’d cut
him up on the Broads; his face red with rage
and sunburn. I notice the mantelpiece

where half his ashes will sit, the rest boxed up
ready for us to hire a Broads cruiser,
and pour them out where he exploded.

 
 

    Working Out

 

When we hug our hellos you’re solid
and new, like you’ve somehow reversed
the spread of middle age. Chopping
logs and pushing mowers has worked
for you. I feel your calloused hands
on the back of my neck and round
my waist. You seem much happier

talking about axes versus
chainsaws, tending someone else's
garden and the absent streetlights.
While we’re both drunk you let me chop
the kindling logs—my back gives out
and hands blister. We make a joke
of it all. You hardly utter
a word about the folks back home.

We avoid everything we know
about each other, holding back
our chosen versions of events.
In the morning I’ll drive myself
back to the family and day job
for cups of tea and shuffling files.
The aching won’t wear off for weeks.

 
 

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.