Issue 2: Matt Merritt

The Archaeologist

He arrived by National Express, though

the railway remained a sporadic

possibility. Or disappointment.

Delete as appropriate.

He showed us maps and legends,

histories to explain how

we’d happened. The decades fell away

like hard black dust under the shower

as we took him from one tumulus

to the next. He took photos,

made endless notes and sketches,

and remarked upon the remarkable

uniformity of their construction,

products of a society that didn’t exist.

The suspiciously rounded, regular contours

crowned by new conifers, nature trails

and picnic areas, the distribution hubs

and technology parks sprawled just beyond.

When he asked us straight we told him

in words of one syllable

and pointed him back to the war memorial

from where he caught a return service

no one could quite recall. He left one neat

back-filled trench, about where No. 1 shaft was.

Sunday Cricket, Eastwood

Only a few steep streets of post-war semis

and 122 years

away from the famous birthplace

and the pavilion says late Edwardian

so one or two of us wonder if he ever

wandered down the hill to turn his arm over.

Early days, I mean, skies smeared with coaldust

and a world revolving slowly round the winding gear.

Before escape and TB,

savage pilgrimage or the ranch in Taos.

Today the spoil heaps are smoothed and shaped

smaller, greener, and by tea the sun has burned through,

briefly, to pick out two flocks of fantails

that flash and disappear, flash and disappear,

above the drowsing town. From across the boundary,

the smell of beer, fags and pipe tobacco

and – this he’d recognize at least – the weekend

being stretched as far as it will go.

It’s the old boys’ talk that chimes

with something half-remembered

when they dawdle to the bar at the end of the over,

point to the police chopper stopping to hover

just about where Nuthall must be, against a sky

thickening to black over Bill’s mother’s.

Matt Merritt is a poet and journalist living near Leicester. His chapbook Making The Most Of The Light was published in 2005 by HappenStance, and his debut collection, Troy Town, was published in March 2008 by Arrowhead.

Copyright © 2009 by Matt Merritt, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.