Matthew Paul




The Dice-box

The list of Bartholomew Marsh’s creditors
encompasses several senior ministers
of his Lordship Liverpool’s government, an earl,
a duke and two bishops. He places on the table
for one last game of Hazard a walnut dice-box
fashioned for his uncle, Charles James Fox,
inlaid with chequers of vibrant Baltic amber
and Galician jet. The periwigged setter

decrees that ‘Mr Marsh’ can cast only after
the loutish coxcombs brazenly hooting for
his ruin are spent. Bartholomew chooses
‘lucky seven’ as his main, as the chances
of its frequency are greater, albeit
by the merest margin, than five, six, eight
or nine, and he nicks it, taking guineas
off all-comers. But fortune must always cease:

calling six, he rolls eleven and throws out,
forfeiting winnings, exhausting his credit.
Chagrined by ridicule, he edges towards
the light of the pinkening midsummer dawn;
metamorphoses, unremarked, into a Marsh
Fritillary; zips out with a rapier’s swish
above Pall Mall Place, disregarding debt,
round and about like a spinning roulette:

chequers of Baltic amber and Galician jet.




Matthew Paul was born in 1966 and lives and works in London. His first collection, The Evening Entertainment was published by Eyewear Publishing in 2017, and he is a participant on the Poetry Business Writing School programme 2017/2018. @MatthewPaulPoet

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