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Three PoemsMatthew Sweeney
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Night Music

He stood on the roof with a saxophone
playing across the road. It was dark,
no one could see him. Passing cars –
though few at this hour – drowned him
out, but he swooped back into hearing,
sending high arcs of sound across
to the block of flats on the other side.
A woman stuck her head out a window,
shouting. A man fired potato missiles,
all missing. He played on, now soft as
a rainbow, now firm as a promontory.
A white cat looked up, miaowing.
A boy lay on top of a bunk bed, smiling.
He played to the owls that flitted past.
He played to the cosmonaut on the moon.
He’d never played as sweetly before
and no one was recording this. He tried
one high bright hopscotch between stars,
holding the notes, as if lovemaking.
A light went on in the top flat, left.
A woman stood sleepily on a balcony.
He sent some fluttery notes her way
just as the first reddening of sunlight
hit the sky. Then he was off, soaring
to Mars and back, diving to the bottom
of the Atlantic, as the red deepened, the sun
climbed above the roofs, paling to a white
that blinded him, told him to stop, pack
his sax away, bow once, go to his rope-
ladder, climb down, disappear into the day.

Excavation

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.

The Snake

He posted her a snake instructed not to bite her.
It came in a long cardboard tube, pricked all over.
It was yellow and black, with red squares and diamonds
to go with the yellow cat, the black terrapin, the red
flowers of the cacti that were the feelers of her flat.
The cat did well to be wary of this cold-blooded slitherer,
this swaying, tongue-waving dancer who followed its
mistress from room to room, as his wriggly ambassador.
She did not know it wouldn’t bite her, and winced
when it brushed across her feet, but when this happened
regularly, when she woke to find it lying on her body
or coiled around her neck, she began to accept it, want it,
come home early, saying she had to feed her pets.
He posted her a second snake instructed to bite her.

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