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2 poems by Matthew Haigh

Cult of the Individual

To be an individual is to sport musical saws for limbs/ saws coated in a peculiar kind of plastic pop sheen/ a 90s 3D rendering of a dream/ a squid/ roach soapy clean/ skillet-hot cream limbs squick-squacking over glass/ to be an individual is to hold a chorus of unreal girlfriends in your oesophagus/ to be an individual is to stand with other individuals scab- coated with scales of mermaid jewel shine/ squeaking your luminous gel pen across a shopfront’s face/ writing messages of love/ messages of hope/ there’s a man in moon-flecked pyjama bottoms with no arms coiled in the doorway a foot away/ skin of lava cake/ black spaghetti hair/ & each individual’s tooth aligns for Instagram as if he wasn’t there.

The New Flesh

My love, many a pub is filled with our talk of Priti Patel; we’ve perfumed booze air darkly, as if freeing a ghost. We have talked & we have ached over this arrival, exchanging ideas on what keeps her awake. We agree it is civility – that slender word, denoting silver or liberty. Unlike Priti Patel, who denotes canker/ spacecraft/ strange lights in the sky. & what of her dreams, in which she is a beaver gnashing through the frail ribs of ladders. & consider the obscene movies we censor so diligently, when Priti Patel stands in a food bank licking truffle oil from her fingers. She formed, we guessed, in layers, like rock salt, a claw of blue crystal, a brutal slaw of cysts subsuming what was soft. Her movement through streets is the descent of something paranormal & though intangible it feels like the weft of an enormous gossamer spider unravelling, loop-the-looping itself above the spires, a city of briefcase-swingers & walking cane-wavers trussed up in the constellation of its web. Have others felt the chill & considered how Priti Patel is a terrible ship passing through the port of our lives – the kind of ship that wrecks itself on rocks, vomiting crude oil, suffocating untold cities of seagulls in its grubby blood. There is hard work in loving/ she is not up to the task. The old flesh is in flux, snagged on the stump of something new – flesh that begins with a baby’s crown poking through our dying fibres. If this infant is a custodian then its mouth is a tender doorway & Priti Patel is the teething, the first hook of bone emerging… The pathway of the new flesh is a cast-iron forest where you may well whack into a leaf, or the ground may yield in glassy ripples – as if you walked upon a sunrise & not the faces of dead children.


Matthew Haigh is from Cardiff. His debut poetry collection, Death Magazine, was published with Salt in 2019. He has also published a pamphlet, Black Jam, with Broken Sleep Books, as well as work in a number of journals and anthologies. His poetry has been highly commended in the Forward Prizes. Matthew is co-organiser of CRASH, a quarterly experimental poetry night in Cardiff.


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