Two poems by Matthew Paul

Frans Ruiter on Unsplash

 
 
 

    Brian Clough in the Rijksmuseum

 

I had four beautiful days in Amsterdam. The weather was gorgeous, 
the sights were just absolutely gorgeous. Everything about the place is magic. 
– The Frost Interview, 1974

 

As he stood eye to eye with Rembrandt’s 1628 self-portrait,
did newly-sacked Cloughie recognise a fellow Old Big ’Ead
from the genius brush-strokes and infinite array of browns,
a painterly equivalent of his own first commandment,
          ‘Get the fook out there and play’?

Or did, in fact, Rembrandt’s curly mop-top, falling all ways
to throw a mask-like shadow over the upper half of his face,
cause Cloughie to gripe aloud like a ruddy pensioner,
          ‘That young man needed a haircut’?

Next time he visited Amsterdam, six years later, Cloughie
let the Forest boys off the leash in the bars of the red-light
district; exhorted them, with his famous winning grin,
         ‘Get the fook out and onto the piss.’

 
 
 
 

    Blindside Flanker

 

I can still recall the pain of perching on a milestone
that hour I waited for my then friend Hanse to mend

his Kawasaki Ninja, on pillion of which I’d dozed
while Hanse ‘tonned-up’ along the Kingston bypass;

a friend of a friend, in fact, whose proudest boast
was the ‘unbelievable’ quantity of non-native goats

he’d culled in Queensland’s Outback fifteen years
before; remunerated per each hundred pairs of ears.

‘Getting the beers in’ always meant tequila slammers:
all that salt-and-lime palaver; shot-glasses thimbles

in his man-mountain’s grasp, smacking them down
on the Green Man’s bar with wood-warping brawn.

Last time he rang, he’d been rugby-tackling a bunch
of jackass penguins for his sister’s doctoral research,

clasping those tarantula hands around braying bills,
inducing regurgitation into customised plastic pails—

he described it as ‘awesome’: imagining each critter
as a tighthead prop for his hometown club’s bitter

rivals. I bet he’s snuffed it from an excess of meat,
or landed, like Hercules, on his size-sixteen feet.

 
 

Matthew Paul

About Matthew Paul

Matthew Paul’s collection, The Evening Entertainment, was published by Eyewear in 2017. His two collections of haiku – The Regulars and The Lammas Lands – and co-written/edited (with John Barlow) anthology, Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku, were published by Snapshot Press. He blogs at matthewpaulpoetry.blog and tweets @MatthewPaulPoet.