Paula Matthews

Four Poems by Paula Matthews

Paula Matthews

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Aphrodite’s Rock

Aphrodite’s rock. I saw it from the bus.
 The tour guide explained
 this was the spot where the
Goddess emerged from the sea.

It confounded me, being kissed by sunshine
on bare skin in late November,
 shoulders out in a bardot top,
a relief to be uncovered.

This pleased another, the temple curator.
Dark, young, incredibly tall,
he showed me an ancient bath,
 remarked that we would not fit in it. 

He said instead we should hit the town,
but the Ulster girl in me declined,
didn’t go out, a foreign country,
a different language, a strange man.

How did Aphrodite feel, naked in the sea?
Did she hesitate, or take command?
Unchaste, making choices founded
 on her truth, genuine, unbound.
Is it divine to be so free?

Aphrodite Emerges from the Sea Again

Imagine Aphrodite emerges in Ulster.
Washed up and washed out, after they ask her
many questions based on fundamentalism,
conservatism, legal logistics and litigation.

‘Aphrodite,’ they would ask,
‘Can you tell us your position
on the flag situation? We want to
weigh your right to sexual expression
with our history of oppression.’

The Goddess speaks: ‘ I am a Deity.
My mind’s too high for flags.
I’m the ancient force of fertility,
passion and love in free women.’

“O, dear,” they would reply,
“We’re afraid it won’t work.
You’re the evocative female who
might distract us from our task.
We are dealing with the past.’ 


Ceramic fish meets silver angel by a boat tour,
traffic merges over bridges. Famous river.
A crooked clock slumps beside a dancers fountain,
hotel full of nooks and crannies, some say for affairs.

The theatre opposite the courts has contemporaries now,
a dark one on the cobbles, a bright one with high windows
thrives behind cathedrals. Night spot, thoroughfare.
Blind artists’ mosaic hangs above a tapas bar.

Libraries, bookshops, music slots, some might busk,
open mics, lanes for bikes, concert sites, brand new lights,
people come, dance and sing. Cocktail waiters serving drinks.

Literati’s, fashionistas, sports fanatics, foodies, drinkers.
Crossing over barriers, supporters of a gathering.

Not protesting, celebrating; and in celebrating, protesting. 

This City, February 2014

“You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore,
 This city will always pursue you.”
              -  C.P. Cavafy

Heading home through firework-throwers,
a crowd of sixty on the main road.
One face down on the ground
in puddles, colleagues unconcerned,
and I, who’d driven twenty years
the back streets, in rush hour, followed
a young man with R plates. Disgraced,
to be stuck still in the same streets.

These roads don’t take you anywhere,
blockades again. They’ve never moved.
The burnt out buses from my school days
are replaced with a fresh spate
of Facebook-managed missile launchers,
the past’s new digital supporters,
while I message, send you texts,
pray you’ll avoid the Albert Bridge. 

Paula Matthews

Paula Matthews was born in County Down and educated at Queen’s University of Belfast and the University of Ulster. Currently employed as a social worker, she is working on her first collection of poems and has completed a mentorship programme with the poet Moyra Donaldson through LitNet NI. Paula is set to begin the creative writing pathway of a Masters in English Literature at the University of Ulster next year and has had poems published in Four x Four and A New Ulster.