Issue 6: Matthew Sweeney

The Suckling Pig

The suckling pig came flying over the wall

of the beleaguered city. It was still warm.

The smell drew a crowd of armed men

followed by crying women. The boys

roasting fat rats on spits let them burn.

A hand reached for a leg of the piglet

but was sliced off with a longsword.

Shouting rose in pitch to a hullabaloo

which was stabbed into stillness by a voice

saying ‘Only the Governor gets to eat it,

him and his wife, and maybe the Reverend.’

The Governor stood there in his wide hat.

He poked the pig with a finger, licked this

and looked at his wife, while the Reverend

blessed what they were going to consume.

‘What if it’s poisoned?’ said a boy,

who was shushed. A soldier took a dagger

from his belt, wiped it on his tunic,

cut off a juicy chunk and devoured it.

He grinned at the Governor who beckoned

the man to carve all and distribute it

to the three while the citizens looked on.

The Rising

The totem pole towered above the birches

whose silver bark was marked by the moon,

and the dead fox lying on the highway

saw the face on the pole begin to smile

and keep on smiling, till the creature rose

to run and disappear deep into the forest.


After Paul Klee’s ‘Wintertag, kurz vor Mittag’

It’s my job to keep the smoke flowing

from our tower block – although I could

just catch the puffs of smoke that

float through the town, like baby clouds.

It’s years since I’ve been outside in daylight,

but I see clearly the clock on the tower

stopped before noon, the Xmas trees

atop the hills and high-rises, the red

that’s everywhere – the road, the roofs,

the occasional window, bits of the sky,

the sun. And I pine for each and every

lovely, outside bit of it.

Doodle Doo

Doodle doo. And the light

drops thinly from the sun

on those up

                   and those not up –

such as me. And through the

half-open blinds I see

wisps of smoke wriggle

and flutter through the air,

then a magpie land on a wire,

and beyond this, a plane’s

long, white, frizzy tail.

Oh year, are these your

final offerings – scraps

of aerial visuals? After all

the horses falling

                    at the final fence,

of course. After all the mud.

A crow hops from chimney pot

to chimney pot. A cloud

drifts above him.

                             Is that

a face at the skylight

in the grey slates? Whose?

Where is my sister?

The wire vibrates in the wind,

the sky spells rain,

the distant thunder of a plane

pulls me up. Ah, doodle doo.

                   Doodle doo.       

Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal in 1952. He's currently based in Cork , having previously been resident in Berlin, Timişoara, and, for a long time, London. Latest publication, The Night Post – A New Selection (Salt, 2010). Several books prior to that, including Black Moon (2007), Sanctuary (2004) and Selected Poems (2002), all published by Cape. Children’s collections, including Up on the Roof – New and Selected Poems, have been published by Faber. Bilingual poetry selections came out in Germany and Holland in 2008, and ones are in preparation in Poland and Romania. Co-author, with John Hartley Williams, of Writing Poetry (Hodder), and editor, or co-editor of several anthologies.