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MATTHEW SWEENEY

 

 

Matthew Sweeney poetry in Southword 18

 

Born in Donegal in 1952, Matthew Sweeney is based in Cork currently, having previously been resident in Berlin, Timişoara and, for a long time, London. His latest collection is Black Moon (2007). Several books prior to that include Sanctuary (2004) and Selected Poems (2002). A retrospective selection is forthcoming from Salt this year under the title The Night Post. Bilingual collections of Sweeney’s work came out in Germany and Holland in 2008. Earlier translations appeared in Mexico, Romania, Latvia and Slovakia.

 

 

 

 

The Alchemist

for Elmar Schenkel

 

High over the Atlantic I remember

being brought to visit the alchemist

a thin man with a crow-beak nose

who’d gone to Oxford with my grandpa,

then had made his name curing sick bees.

I can see again his pink cottage

down on the rocks, beyond Padstow,

with the black goat grazing outside.

 

I can hear his high-pitched laugh

as he goes off, whisky-glass in hand,

to bring back a drawer full of gold,

shining blobs of all sizes, which he

spread out on the glass coffee-table.

Here, he said, handing me the biggest,

Buy yourself a midget submarine

there’s  more where that came from.

 

I pocketed the smooth nugget, wishing

I could stay and become his apprentice,

but my grandpa hugged the alchemist

and brought me to the railway station.

As for my gold, I didn’t get to enjoy it

my mother used it up on the new kitchen.

I flick on the flight-attendant light,

then ask the hostess for a large whisky.

 

©2010 Matthew Sweeney

 

 

Author Links

 

Guardian Review: Black Moon

Sweeney's translation of Sigitas Parulskis in Southword

Bio and poems at Poetry International Web

 

 

 

 

 

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