Image by Image by Munster Literature Centre

Up On The Roof

Up on the Roof

Up on the roof of a church
was a small, blond boy
and a black and white kitten.

Down below, the priest
was praying aloud,
pleading with God,

asking him to keep
this small boy from falling,
down from his church.

He couldn’t phone the mother
as he didn’t know her,
and cats all looked the same.

When the verger appeared
with a telescopic ladder
the priest closed his eyes

and, gripping his rosary,
he prayed in the dark until
the verger began to climb.

The boy was on his feet now
calling the kitten
who refused to move.

‘Sit down,’ begged the priest,
in an almost whisper
so as not to alarm the boy

who paid no attention,
walking over the slates
as if on the pavement

or as if he had wings -
with the sun in his hair
he looked like an angel.

When the verger’s bald head
rose above the drainpipe
the boy had the kitten

and was walking back,
along the ridge,
with a beatific smile.


from Up on the Roof: New and Selected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2001), © Matthew Sweeney, 2001, used by permission of the author and publisher.

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