Matthew Dobson - "The Alcoholic" and "Thaw"

"The Alcoholic"


He swept us out of the room

with brooms for hands,

and welcomed us back

with bottle tops for eyes,


which winked

and dripped condensation

down his cheeks.


He told us stories that hummed

like a big fridge.

If only we could crack them open

and find the nourishment

he could

and the light


for his dark flat.


He promised us the beaches of Normandy,

all of the landing craft

with their cargo of seaweed,

but gave us Calvados apples

on his breath,

fermented and sweet,


rich with words that had, he said,

been ripening for years,

and which he had seeded

in us.




You’re washed by the blue water

of police lights.

The air's so cold it sparkles,

your hair turns white.


The water cools down your heart

until its walls are stiff

and the blood oozes.


You tense.

Even memories

of your dead

that usually flood and roar

slow to a trickle:


the feathery skin

on your grandfather's hands,

which once heaved a tonne

of Northumbria coal.


Now clean,

light as rain.


The purple on your father's teeth

is odourless.


It smells of nothing

but river water,

black and glassy.


As the sirens pour away into

the city streets

your chest slackens,

the heart warms.


Matthew Dobson is a teacher in Surrey, England.  He studied English at university, but only began writing a few years after graduating, when he lived in Japan.  He has been published in Butcher's Dog, Neon, and elsewhere.