Matthew Dobson – three poems


The Natural History Museum, London

The bison skull behind the glass — as dense as iron
with rusting, pitted horns.
It’s an anchor
that stops the museum — this ark
for the dead — drifting off above headlights and rain.

The sperm whale skeletons soar like birds
plucked from the seas; spines quake;
tusks sprout beneath
the stag’s skull pinned to the wall:
its antlers spread and twitch like large antennae

tasting the air our bodies haul behind them.
Shark jaws quiver when
our throats walk past —
they’re biding their time as the building lurches,
tugs at its anchor. Warm crowds surge on board

and our breath steams up the cabinets of oysters,
fool’s gold, butterflies,
and feathered beasts
splayed on a slab of slate. Our ribs,
like restless wings, muscle against our skin

as though we had once learnt to fly but are now
keeping it secret from ourselves.

Rain on the Island

And through the darkness
my father follows his torch.
He’s found a lamb —
as lumpy as a spent candle,
sodden black

His hands are stroking its ribs
as though a pulse
were smouldering inside,
as though his heat
could spark one.

He kneels, unsure
of whether to drag it in
or leave it cold
among the damp crow wings
and fox eyes shining like fairies
in his torch beam. He stands,
looks past the beach to the sea,
the sea gently closing
door after door.


Our spreadsheets have colour-coded
the names of diseases
we may die from,
formulated the mean
of our daily breaths.

Our inboxes have collected names —
an algorithm
will show us their thoughts
like when you hold a finger
to a lamp
and see the bones.

Our photographs,
when we touch them,
live again.

Matthew Dobson lives in Surrey, England. He has been published in numerous print and online magazines, including Butcher’s Dog, Neon, and Agenda.


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