When I pulled your knickers down
I made a promise,
by hoisting you round my shoulders
I would use every taste bud.
I remember your pleasure,
I was the conductor,
if I had stopped
I would have snuffed out your orchestra.
But I avoided your eyes
as I hunted the orgasm
because the memory of others
played like a harp behind them.
‘The Funeral of Shelley’ *
The smoke rises to heaven
from a body pale and formed.
Leigh-Hunt, Trelawney and Byron
watch the fire smoulder his clothes
as if they had thrown him on it
off their shoulders.
As if they had pulled him
from the water; freshly drowned
like a soldier of the sea,
with his sea-green skin.
He is watched by his mournful admirers
smouldering on the pyre forever.
In truth I’ve heard it said
that the fire would not start
and when Trelawney grasped the burning heart
it may have been a liver
from a body that had taken on water
as to be unrecognisable.
After weeks of waiting
for this cremation on the coast
Byron retired with nausea on the day.
But in either scene
Trelawney pulled something from that fire,
be it a heart or a liver.
*A painting by Edoard Louis Fournier, 1881
When a window is left open in the summer
because the air is thin honey
the admirer might forget to close it
and the room will take in night.
After a long evening the door will open
and the confection of past hours
will gush down the landing,
the slow smell of flowers and fading heat.
The breath of what’s left in the room
gets shocked into moths at a light switch,
their location and species are a lottery,
they seem randomly forged out of night.
There are bits of kit around the house
forced into spaces
designed for indefinite storage:
The bass drum has succumbed to rust
around its chassis
like the important part of some old car,
the cymbals are covered in green scars,
spat on, oxidised
but they still rip the air out of my ears.
What is left seems like factory trash
with thick, flaccid skins:
I have assembled them in the lounge.
When I climb inside I remember feeling
like an engineer
loving his old engine and becoming it,
even now as I move around the kit
old efforts appear
and frame my hands and feet in patterns.
From this mess of tubing and metal I make
clear and strong rhythms
that blend fresh thought with old practice.
When I discover I was good at this
it is quick deafness.
I become the centre of my own inventions.
Matthew Byrne studies an MA in Poetry at the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. He put together the first ever UNSUNGFest – a much-loved independent festival hosted by the Contact Theatre.