the man with the long-handled dustpan asked me
while I was passing the riverside bar first thing
this morning, as his eye caught mine, twitchy,
pointing at a little flap among the fag-butts and papers.
You’re fine I said, moving closer, smiling
and anyway, that’s a damselfly,
a banded demoiselle; blue, a male
downed in the wind or just near to being done.
Long-leg-wary, he lifted it clear,
stooped with too much information.
The day glinted between harm and care
and now, if asked again, man to man, I’d answer here
the same to my dear ones or any stranger –
such hurt lands in the way love or its absence can.
Matt Howard manages the Poetry Centre at the University of Leeds. His second collection, “Broadlands”, will be published in June by Bloodaxe Books
This article appears in the 07 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Who runs Labour?