Silver Branch series:

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Matthew M. C. Smith is a Welsh poet from Swansea. He has a doctorate from Swansea University on Robert Graves and Welsh Celticism. Matthew has three 'Best of the Net' nominations and his work can be read in Poetry Wales, Finished Creatures, Barren Magazine, The Lonely Crowd, Atrium Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Green Ink, Seventh Quarry, Acropolis Journal, Icefloe Press and Arachne Press. Matthew won the R.S. Thomas poetry award at Gwyl Cybi in 2018. His first collection was Origin: 21 Poems and his second book The Keeper of Aeons is published in 2022.

Desert Mountains
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Astronaut


International Space Station


Sealed in microgravity,
a witness to stars,
I sense the earth turn,
know this station’s velocity.


In a steel sentry, orbiting the blue sphere,
I observe a forever abyss,
at the edge of perfect gravity,
a gravity as rare as love.
Is there love beyond this orbit?
Is love outside this world?


                *


In sleep, cosmic rays flash like binary,
pulse on visual cortex.
City circuits, silent as tombs,
oceans, landmass, whorls of cloud,
tropics latitudes, spectral horizons;
storms’ green fire on curve of globe.
We travel into night, day,
dark, light,
terrifically lonely
with ghost memories
of touch, of love:
bodies, voices,
grounded in light.

Space station

Aeons


Through polished glass, skulls are encased, contained and mapped;
exhibits in a dry room, a vault on Floor 3, 21.2 degrees.
No longer buried beneath trees with wild, throaty, dissonant songs of
birds at dawn.
Beyond the swarm, the humming heat, the stampede,
grazing beasts of the field.


Bones once moved to cast shapes,
silhouettes cast across rock,
shadows straightening as creatures.
Knees in the scrub, they crouched on the plain at twilight,
kindling a flicker-flame of smoke under dark skies.


Here, a rattle of air-con, a loose blade, a blue bottle
in a vermillion pulp-shell, its bare legs stuck to halogen light.
Here, the exhibit labels track aeons; measurements of mandible,
crania and zygomata. Relics brushed out of dirt,
once cradled in the desert, held by mountains.
Knowledge pared to bone.


Ergaster, Erectus, Antecessor, Caprenensus, Neanderthal, Floriensis.
 

Trillions of bones, rivers of lifeblood,
 

Space and light
 

Beyond this room, Homo Sapien stands in silver suit before the rocket,
the sealed cell, eyes aspiring skyward.
A pearl of moon at noon in the east.
A blistering sun overhead.
The ability to fly.

Published by Finished Creatures, included in The Keeper of Aeons

Astronaut

Towards Night: from the Space Station


We slice solar winds, sail orbit-haloes,
watch from the cupola, window on the world;
photons to retina in brightened abyss.


Six panes catch our breath, six panes
that show a bow-electric rim of light,
crescent in night.


Fingers touch glass.
It marks our print:
‘Homo Sapien’.


Have we come too far, too soon,
taking passage; from canyon floors, through storms,
wind-driven deserts, ice-wracked ranges?


We stand on lookout towers,
exalted and supreme,
over silicone cities.


Once, before fierce wars of progress, we stood
at the ocean’s edge, burning under the atoll sun,
then drifted in currents, plunging to the shining, coral bed.

 

We watch, as sealed sentinels, dry and racing,
through perishing darkness, fearing ruin.

Published by Finished Creatures, included in The Keeper of Aeons.

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The Keeper of Aeons

Matthew M. C. Smith's second book, The Keeper of Aeons, published with Broken Spine Arts, is published in November 2022. For more information and to order, click here The Keeper of Aeons

"In The Keeper of Aeons Matthew M. C. Smith takes the reader through vast expanses of time and multiple realities. As readers, we move from a crouching position on the plane of the Rift Valley at an early stage in human evolution to a sterile museum exhibition of ancient skulls in a
European city; we plunge, like a shaman, on a time-travelling journey back to a Mesolithic human burial at Paviland Cave, Gower, and are stopped in our tracks before the Goddess stone at a bronze age burial mound in North Wales. These are poems of darkness, illumination, and
surreal flights of fancy: a supernatural masked ball of skulls and ghosts, the horror of the Mari Lwyd custom; being struck by awe-inspiring night skies; the potential for revelation in a church before stained glass."

 

"From caves to the International Space Station, from desert wastes to the Anthropocene city where the last survivor is part-machine, this moving collection reveals a Welsh poet in his ascendancy." Broken Spine Arts

  

"Smith’s writing is a kind of illumination – his imagery glows with an eerie, lean light that reveals us standing at the edges; of place, history, myth, nature, personhood, and time. The Keeper of Aeons unburies the found bone of our ancient origins, strikes it against the crystal skin of a truly vast universe, then deftly translates as multiple strange futures answer back. Smith challenges us to look deep to our roots, and then, always, to raise our eyes and be dizzied by our place in an ongoing, gleaming story: Anyway you turn is infinity / as light sears the void. This book is a torch to navigate by, from first cave to final spacewalk."  

 

Ankh Spice – author of The Water Engine (Femme Salvé Books), co-editor Ice Floe Press.

Image by Deborah Diem

Survivor

The rose-glass city

is bathed in gold light.

 

I cross its thresholds

as matter, machine.

 

The labyrinth has a hundred floors;

I float down flights,

 

take passages through light.

What a thing it is to be so alone.

 

Each journey is a torn map, a glitch in the programme.

I fly across flecked seas.

 

In the ice field, I am beached: moraine, tundra,

before the glacier. Enter the fire-blue cave.

From The Keeper of Aeons

Sea Ballet
 

The sea is heaviness, a crush

of gravity, gaining. Waist-high,

the chest braces a compression

of cold. I cast a flotilla of flowers;

each petal, a minute star floating out,

hope against hope. In the ebb tide,

pulling, I sink below a striped

sky, arched, pointed, arms thin-finned.

At the end of the ballet, the chill-

element pulls. A slow fall, a dance

in black, as white shine sinks.

Published by Green Ink Poetry

Origin

For F. and A.

You came into a sun world,

cupped palms coaxing you from origin,

beating a breath out of your stillness.

A breaking cry cleared your darkness

and when I held you, I knew your pulse

and every intelligence. We held this small,

swaddled life by turns, a gift of paradise.

You belong to the world, to rose-red rivers

dipped by the sun, to the white path of light

in darkest night, to frosts of fire beyond our dawn. 

From Origin: 21 Poems

Daughters

 

As they play

in the ash-white light of noon

I hear that I am part of their story

I am a character

in their chatter

amid light footfalls on earth

 

And later I am forgotten

in the chase and care of climbing

and when overcome

they reach up

and rest

head on my shoulder

 

Soon, I can just

About,

Move,

As they cling

And bob

To the motion

Of their walking ship

Published in Origin: 21 Poems (2018)

The Green Man

 

mist drifts through webs

rain-flecked

 

from the house,

from the ivy way

 

all paths spiral

shadowed by green ruins

 

unravelled to the sky

and beyond

 

the forest is ghost

 

walk in the night

walk to your rest

 

look and kneel

under the beat moon

 

and the pitiless stars

upon the Green Man

 

moss-cheeked

ivy bearded

 

who stares, deathless

through you

From Origin: 21 Poems

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As if this is a Dreamscape

A needle pricked to skin’s breaking, the driver clicking,

a cold burn streaking, seeping through this strip of fatty tissue.

Cold quiver across my body, hot flashing temples, white light.

Each day is probing, thumbing for new entry points, a stomach and

all its woundings coined blue; hips are bruised saddles of flesh.

 

There’s no hope, just pain. The undertow.

I bend over my pale, outstretched thighs to find an area

recently untouched – “maximise absorption”. The firm skin

buckles, pulps, around the sharp, steel point releasing, then

a tiny dot of red welling that will cloud the upper surface dark.

Some days I just stare down, feeling that I can’t. Diminished.

 

Still life: an unclothed creature in the mirror, side-gazing, wide-eyed, ageing; a folded cradle-shape of self, readying with muscles wracked

and locking, to ease in the needle’s sharpness, grimacing

gritting teeth to jack up. The body’s an interconnection of tied up,

filled sacks ready to burst with ash and light.

Some days she’s there, my angel, to administer, a study of quiet intent. As if there is hope. As if this is a dreamscape when she smiles.

As if this is not pain. As if the white lights are a great ride flashing by and the smooth, sprung heart leaps from its mottled, spent body.

Published in Poetry Wales - 'How I wrote the Poem'

Aurora Magic

 

Only once we caught fluorescent

flashes of the Northern lights,

beyond the bite of the Great Bear’s

diamonds; a ghoulish spectre under

hailing starlight. We were there.

Our fingers tangled, smooth flesh

over bones crossed. We looked on,

eyes wide, glimpsing aurora; our souls

as spectres in brief brilliance. And there,

the mountains fell to the east, to dawn’s

far region where fields of frost

blind the eyes of the waking god.

We were there, alive and one.

Published in Black Bough Poetry's Afterfeather

Northern Lights

"In my writing, I aim for economy, precision, and vivid imagery, inspired, in part, by the imagist movement. I strive to engage readers and listeners in a multi-sensory experience, provoking a wide range of emotions: a sense of dread and awe, the joy of real connection, the tight churn of grief, the lingering, metallic taste of bitterness and regret, the calm letting go of body and mind suspended in a continuous moment.  I hope that my poems and prose help people to access their own memories and feelings, some of them very deep-down, and that they feel they can travel far beyond expectation, as time, place and space travellers. The poem, for me, should be a means of immersion, of true waking; of flight and escape, beyond our own, known limits."

Matthew M. C. Smith