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Sample Poems by Matthew Haughton

The Green Shed

Time hasn't left well enough alone.
Unopened for years,
the padlock
still clutches to its rusted latch.
After such a passage,
it's hard to tell
what manner of life
has taken residence inside.
When I was a boy, hornets
rooted a nest within.
I'd listen with my ear on the door
to their ordered singing.
When the doors were opened,
you had to run
to allow the hornets time to scatter.
Behind the shed,
I'd sit on a cinderblock
amongst the snakeroots.
If I go there again,
it's to listen for those drones.
To hide where I hid as a child.
To hear their chorus,
soft-pedaled in their song-making.


They're digging up the field
by my neighbor's home,
where for many seasons
boys played
shirts verses skins.
Earlier this year,
I saw my lost brother
there -
late at night, keeping an eye
on our childhood home.
He was standing
in that field,
knee-deep in the chicories.
They're digging
up this field to make
a new road,
but I'd rather see
boys throwing spirals
while the land
is churned apart,
the mouth of the woods
just beyond,
my brother standing watch.

To Plant a Cross in the Woods

The woods were there
if we left home
by the backdoor -
stepping over roots
we headed
towards them,
those woods
where we could be
more than boys
without real service
to the world
(before the discovery
of our part in it).
One Spring,
we made a cross
out of leftover
lumber our neighbor
discarded in the weeds.
We worked to lift
each plank
until we found
two beams that seemed
about right.
We dragged them as far
as we could;
our fingers
caught splinters,
our ankles
nicked briars,
until our shoulders
sank from the weight
of our drenched
cotton tee-shirts.
We planted our cross
in the first
clearing we reached,
a place
where the earth
had given-way
of growth, leaving
dried shoots
and shots
of rusted grass,
scattered on the ground.
Our rooted cross
leaned crooked
from our
hand-dug planting,
as we sat
with work-sweat
like beads of blood
down our foreheads,
then wiped across our mouths.

Like Hill Fields, Mothers Had Mysteries Too

My mother would warn:
don't go too far
back there,
you don't wanna get lost
and you don't know
what will find you.

In my youthful mind,
her warning
took form
in all things -
fear of men
stalking the hill fields
at day,
the jaws of snakes
snapping out of limbs.
The trees.
I believed
if I were to go too far,
they'd seize all the air
and suffocate me
for their pleasure.
Only a child
could think up such
a thing,
and years later
let it turn in his head
when passing an Oak.

Picking Off a Squirrel

His wound rose up-out
of his thigh
like a dark red bud
popping from a branch.
He scared me, limping
away underneath
an old doghouse.
I'd shot him,
thinking a child's aim
could never be good.
I cried trying to lift
that doghouse,
just so I could put him
out of his misery.
I told myself he survived
with a wound,
but there was no way
to get at him,
except for maybe
an old black snake -
whom I also cried for,
rolling a copper bead
in his belly,
writhing in the dirt
because I happened to fire.