Matthew Hollis – Leaves (Hazel Press)
The shortest pamphlet on our list, and the only one with a single narrative line, Matthew Hollis’s Leaves is a moving meditation on the dynamics of a father/daughter relationship, set against the backdrop of autumn. In clear dialogue with Eliot’s Four Quartets, and laying bare the strange, mythic quality that lies under the surface of the everyday, it explores themes of departure and return, the loss and renewal of life, in musical sentences that pull us on mesmerically through to the pamphlet’s regenerative ending.
As the first snow blazed over Antrim
as London waited winter,
your mother locked in the unlit wards
of Isleworth, long beneath her landslide,
your father lost to the unmanned miles of corridor,
into this you came, furnace to flame:
deer, dear one, beloved, friend.
Frost shall freeze. Fire melt wood.
Earth grows, ice bridges, and water wears
a helmet of glass to shield its new-made life.
And a worn mind slips to a fire-pit in childhood:
wet lines looped on a cool lawn,
a wheelbarrow ferrying its deadwood and leaf-break –
those moss-run bones of broken branch
having no more and so more to give.
Cloak. Smoke. Barely blaze –
though flukes rose up through the copper beech leaves
as if they had somewhere to be.
Out with my dad in the scarfed cold
wondering where the burnt wood goes.
And ash is what cannot be taken:
potash, phosphate, calcium carbonate.
I don’t even know where your ashes are.
But all that they are is in everything.
All that they are I am.
And the embers were never an ending.
But the start of our investment in the chemical earth.