Matt Gilbert

Rehearsing the eremocene

Too early for the school run, I went the long way round, 
via an accidental field, hemmed between two housing blocks, 
where by the bins, a mangy fox was heckled 
by a pair of ink-sketch crows, tetchily intent on never sharing 
the dappled promise of a small round patch of sun

I arrived and all the other creatures turned, gave me the wild 
cold-shoulder, quit the scene together, with a knowing roll of eyes, 
leaving me to face the longest lonely, at least till three o’ clock, 
when I’d be relieved by a tumble of screeching children, 
frothing out of iron gates, like liquid from a shaken can,
then briefly re-united, with a single still small hand.

spalted wood

Had to take it, didn’t I? Have it,
remove that slice of tree heart,
revealed when clearing space for light 
in the woods, blood-red stripe shining
through the middle, wordless seaside rock.

Strange to find such beauty, born of fighting 
fungi, ascomycetes, or unsexed imperfecti, 
dyeing the insides with lines of pigment, 
expanding as they battle over territory, 
unseen, until the tree dies, or is cut open.

Back home, I flashed my trophy,
earning praise for craft I’d had no part in,
shelved my wooden lump, leaving it to sit 
unvarnished, as the bright colour faded,
dulled to pink, until almost unremarkable.


These surgeons do not wear white
gowns or aprons, hair tied back,
their patients will not be anaesthetised,
standing tall through all incisions,

signalled with mechanic roars, preludes
for the buzz, whine, thump, to come, 
as bark skin, sapwood, heartwood, 
feel the bite of metal teeth, 

gnawing on over-reaching limbs, scraping 
passing buses, or threatening to snap, to slap
a dog, or one of us, back into the ground 
- yet high regard is there, beneath hard hats 

and headsets, lofty departing branches caressed 
by dangled legs, before the cutter brings them 
down, like patting a broken horse before a shot, 
admitting sentience through touch, 

as the violence of the noise becomes the act: 
a shout, a keening, released to confess the size 
of sacrifice, from each shorn tree, each street-bound 
concrete forest soul, brought before the knife. 

Matt Gilbert is a freelance copywriter, who also blogs at, on place, books and other distractions. He has had poems published by Atrium, Black Bough and Ink Sweat & Tears amongst others. Originally from Bristol, he currently gets his fill of urban hills in South East London.

Twitter: @richlyevocative

Flights, Issue Six, September 2022