Matthew M C Smith (British Working Class Poetry)

Matthew M. C. Smith is a working-class Welsh writer from Swansea. He is Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated and won the R.S. Thomas prize at Gwyl Cybi in 2018. He is the author of The Keeper of Aeons and also edits Black Bough Poetry. @MatthewMCSmith Insta: @smithmattpoet  Also on FB 



Field X

Trees stand sentinel,

boughs glisten black.

Banks of leaves,

tumble to field’s edge,

a ditch brook murmurs,

orange blood of iron trickle.


Scare of crow, sky,

speck of hawk, high;

brook, river

mast, transmitter,

red pulse

on signal spire.


Fields tilled, stilled,

a picking bird

tapping a barren bower.


Tear-salt winds

bleach a long skull

and whistle wire.



Somewhere, General Custer Stares at a Cheese Plant


My Grandfather is six-foot one and leggy in his tub chair.

I count seven ashtrays on the glass table and countless cups.

The light of the TV flickers on his face and reflects tiny in his white,


marble eyeballs. A hunched silverback in a black leather jacket,

he fires up a lighter, dragging deeply. My grandfather talks

about the Americans and how we will fall out with them and ally


with Russia. He tells me for the umpteenth time how it wasn’t

Lee Harvey Oswald but someone on the grassy knoll

in suit and shades and about the mafia and Cuba and Castro.


He’s drawn stick men on fag packets and saves Benson and Hedges

vouchers – a send-away for Motown Soul Classics. He tells me how he met

Ernest Borgnine in London and how Sophia Loren is the most beautiful woman


in the world. He watches Attenborough, eyeing a macaw with suspicion.

and reaches out to a bag of broken biscuits. All around, the smell of cigarettes

is overwhelming, permeating every surface and crevice.


There are socks on the floor and a vest draped over a 12-inch Hiawatha

carrying an infant. All over my grandfather’s, there are ‘Red Indians’ figures;

just one General Custer with a rifle staring at a drooping cheese plant.


A pair of ‘Y’ fronts, a pack of cards and a coat hanger are strewn across

a Johnny Mathis record and there are saucers and receipts and bits of paper

all over the table and shelves. My grandfather collects us from


school in a rattling, thumping Morris Minor, held together inside

with hooks. Wood frames of moss and a battered, sun-bleached

leather interior. My grandfather has a polo neck and a paunch


and a magazine under his armpit. Dogs go crazy for him wherever he goes

and somehow, he knows every stranger after a single look. He’s still there

in our photo at home in that jacket, standing like an ageing Roger Moore,


one eyebrow raised, his hair high, brilliant ash-white. Three streets away,

his flat is vacant. The Indians are wrapped in paper in our hall. General Custer

is in a bag in a shed covered in ghost-spiders. We play Motown Classics.



Prometheus Regrets


I carried the secret of fire

to the shadowed isles of the earth,

gave them heat and light,

the power of the gods. The people

triumphed with this flame,

retelling my story as if I was a cheat,

satiated by the gore, my innards spilling

with the eagle’s slicing beak.

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