Two poems by Matt Merritt

The Mind’s Skyline

I wanted to write you a poem containing the phrase
‘the mind’s skyline’. I have only the vaguest idea

of how this might work or exactly what it might mean,
but I like the way it sounds, so please bear with me.

It will start with the image of the new-builds by the bus-stop,
currently caged by scaffold and orange safety mesh,

and quietly draw attention to the way they change almost
imperceptibly from day to day. There will be birds,

let’s face it, although more for badly-needed
flashes of colour than with any real symbolic intent.

Listen, like this – ‘lapis sky and the enervating drizzle
of warbler-talk from sycamores along the cutting,

praise-song for a sun three hours risen’. In light
of your own poem, I have some idea of tearing it all down

and starting again, but perhaps a much more general
rained-on roofscape could serve as a metaphor for my mood,

and already swifts are busy measuring the distance between
the half-completed eaves and a daylight moon.
The Dark Ages

Night fell and by morning
viaducts and central heating
were the stuff of wild fancy.

People went to bed early
and daylight came stained
with the fall-out of distant eruptions.

Every winter was a mini-Ice Age
that allowed barbarian hordes
to pour across frozen river frontiers.

Gods proliferated and argued the toss
incessantly, while sparrows were enlisted
in the service of ambitious new religions

and pretty soon nothing happened
that didn’t chart the fluctuations
of fickle divine favour.

Origins were invariably obscure
while endings were unhappy and generally arrived
on the tip of a broad-bladed spear.

Information backed up along
grass-grown highways, while word-hoards
grew and glittered for the few.

Cities were the work
of legendary giants, long since fled
beyond non-existent suburbs.

There was never enough money
to go round, and trade stagnated
or travelled beneath a raven banner

but here and there, salt and wine and lead
still changed hands. The poor were with us,
of course, and heroes slept beneath distant peaks,

while high-kings crossed themselves
before sailing for eternity
in the bone-cages of clinker-built keels.

Everything was shrouded in the flicker
of candlelight guttering in a draught
that could never be traced.

Facts remained in short supply
throughout, although live poetry
seems to have enjoyed a golden era.
Matt Merritt is a poet and wildlife journalist from Leicester. His third collection, The Elephant Tests, is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press, and previous publications include hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica (Nine Arches, 2010) and Troy Town (Arrowhead, 2008). He blogs at