:: Article

Three Poems

By Matt Shoard.

Night of the Dead, October 30th 2009

I don’t mean to sound like a priest
but casual espousals of the occult

aren’t cool. Someone will bring a Ouija board,
someone will deem it vintage

to evoke a minor demon and giggle
as it whispers to them of tube crashes

replaceable presidents
and which of the cafe’s millionaires

slices has adeno-cell cancer.
You sound naive, she shouts

from the ceiling at the V&A,
her arms whirling like leaves,

like Lars von Triers and the ghosts
in Scrooge’s window,

which were her warnings
as much as mine. You look

and sound like a naïve person.


Pret a Manger

And if the world ended now,
what would they find? Laptops, one ham
wrap, a strand or two of pinkish hair,
beams and speakers, centuries leaning
rampant on each other with dark brown thoughts.
And none of this would have found its dust
without you and me, our teacups
condensing sunlight, our newspapers
cocked, our handprints roadmaps back
to our trusting bones; half-seconds
straddling that ending with a kind of arrogance.
Remember there was a monk? Remember
there was a monk that used to come?


Self-Conscious Sestina

“Morning, sexy,” said God
one morning in the bathroom mirror.
“You’re a beautiful soul,
would you like to watch television? Robot
is on.” But then the thought of TV
started him self-consciously whimpering.

And if you’ve heard God whimpering
like the movement of time itself, God
it makes you want to break a TV
for bad luck, select a piece of the mirrored
glass and self-harm. He sounds like a robot
would sound if they gave it a soul.

God wondered whether the soul
could leave the body by whimpering.
He made a voice like a robot
with a bad German accent. “Hallo my namen iss God.
What iss your oh-pin-yon Mister Mirror?”
Babestation whispered on the TV.

God was asked once on TV
what he thought about the erosion of the soul
but he was too busy trying to mirror
the body language of his interviewer. Whimpering
in the audience did little to distract God
and he proceeded to do his funny robot

impression. People don’t like to hear a robot
that sounds like God, especially on TV,
but every time this occurs to God
it’s already too late. He’ll be in the bath whispering Soul
by Sam & Dave or whimpering
self-consciously in the bathroom mirror.

It’s sad when you realise the bathroom mirror
is your only friend. “Zee verld off zee robot
vill begin not viz a bangs but a vimpering.”
God watched himself on TV
playing his part in the corrosion of the soul.
He could hear shouting outside: “WHAT! NEXT! GOD!”

Whimpering, I read my poem to God
live on TV. I said “sestinas are for robots.”
He prayed for my soul in his dressing-room mirror.


Matt Shoard won the Poetry Society’s Young Poet of the Year Award and a Frogmore Press Short Shorts Fiction Prize. He edits Fleeting Magazine and writes about books and culture for The Guardian. He is currently teaching creative writing, working on a PhD and writing his first novel The Sibilant.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, May 7th, 2011.