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 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. 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.
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.
[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.]
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