Guest Poem by Matt Bryden

Matt Bryden is a poet and teacher living in Devon. He was winner of the Charroux Memoir Prize and the William Soutar Prize in 2019 and in 2018 won a Literature Matters award from the Royal Society of Literature for Lost and Found, his project viewing Bristol Temple Meads Lost Property Office as an entrance to the Greek Underworld.

Rich and Poor in the Underworld

I should choose, so I might live on Earth, to serve as the hireling of another, some landless
man with hardly enough to live on, rather than be lord over all the dead that have perished.
Odyssey 11, 489 – 491

See this tanned thick-hammed youth
and his paramour emerge short-sleeved
onto a seagull-padded platform.

Treading lightly, they seem already stripped,
refined by flame to their present forms.
Yet neither has suffered the lightning flash

or ritual to take them below. To be weightless,
inconsequent requires you crack your bones, slip blood
from its vein, a report like a shot jolt

spirit from skin. Beneath them, cobblers and sweeps –
shorn of the slights and shocks that rocked
their eyelids closed – turn wide circles, swirl about

as weightless, inconsequent as cry-baby Achilles.
His demands for attention register
as disharmony, a rift. While our more imperial man

attempts to kick up the dust, raise a 5 iron
against a backdrop forest fire, cut a swathe
like a motorcade through traffic.

How we tire. Press fingers to our lips
and turn our gaze; as Ajax rattles arms
in the tomb, shoos the draughts players away.