In the Dust

In the Dust

And then in the dust he drew a face,
the face of a woman, and he asked
the man drinking whiskey beside him
if he'd ever seen her, or knew who she was,
all the time staring down at her, as if
this would make her whole. And then,
at the shake of the head, he let his boot
dissolve her into a settling cloud.
He threw another plank on the fire,
drained his glass and filled it again,
watching his dog rise to its feet
and start to growl at the dirt-road
that stretched, empty, to the hilly horizon.
A shiver coincided with the dog's first bark,
that doubled, trebled, became gunfire
that stopped nothing coming, so he stood
to confront it, but not even a wind
brushed his face, no shape formed,
and after the dog went quiet, a hand
helped him sit down and rejoin his glass.

'In the Dust' from Sanctuary (Cape, 2004), © Matthew Sweeney, 2004, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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3Last Supper

4A Round House

5Imagined Arrival

6The Servant

7The Ideal Home

8A Crow's Cremation


10Divers at the Laurentic

11A Couple Waiting

12The Shadow Home

13Pink Milk

14Her Song



17The Desert


19Donkey Hoof

20The House


22The Hat

23The Compromise

24An End

25The Butcher


27A Smell of Fish


29The Summons


31The UFO

32In the Dust


34The Sweatmark

35The Snowy Owl

36The Hunger Artist at Home

37The Snake


39Black Moon

40In the Garden

41The Glass Chess Set

42The Blue Hammock

43Fish and Chips