Matthew Sweeney

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Ireland | 2006

Matthew Sweeney was born in Donegal, Ireland in 1952. His poetry collections include A Dream of Maps (1981), A Round House (1983), Blue Shoes (1989), Cacti (1992), The Bridal Suite(1997) and A Smell of Fish (2000). Selected Poems, representing the best of 10 books and 20 years’ work, was published in 2002. He won a Cholmondeley Award in 1987 and an Arts Council Writers’ Award in 1999. Matthew Sweeney was Poet in Residence at the National Library for the Blind as part of the ‘Poetry Places’ scheme run by the Poetry Society in London. His latest poetry collections are Sanctuary (2004) and Black Moon (2007), the latter shortlisted for the 2007 T. S. Eliot Prize.


Report 2006


Somewhere in these woods a crashed plane
is buried in undergrowth, the wings
broken off, black crosses still visible
to anyone who’d hack down to see them,
and if this person were then to excavate
the crushed cockpit, liberate the broken
skeleton, prop it up against a pine tree,
a low humming would be heard above
the flies and bees, a humming that took on
German, that danced about on the wind
while the tail, with its black crosses,
was dug out of roots, grass, fallen branches
as gunfire once again filled these hills
after sixty years, and shells and tracer
flew overhead, but no tree would be hit,
nor would fires whoosh through leaves
to the delight of the fool in the hill castle
out with his grappa on the rooftop,
Marlene blaring through the speakers
singing to the crashed pilot in the woods.


Already November, and the last red admiral
is flapping around the light. Its mate
sits dead, wings folded, in the bottom corner
of the window. No poking will resurrect it.
Above it a bee, almost dead, clings to the glass.
The flier pirouettes in the hot air, flashing open
its red and white frescoes, then closing to
the black wings that mimic its dead brother,
above whom the bee, in a last campaign, moves
stiffly across the glass, too tired for flight,
hanging on, now that the heating’s activated
which might give Vanessa Atalanta another
day to open and close its gaudy lungs,
dance figures of eight in the air, a diminutive
Italian Richthofen, showing off to itself
and to the light it lands on, but never
for long, until it’s dried and baked there.

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