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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1The Flying Spring Onion

2Cows on the Beach

3Cecil the Spider

4Fishbones Dreaming

5Lucy's Gosling

6James' Mum

7Johnjoe's Snowman

8Blue Hair

9The Red House


11My Dear Mungo

12Night Boy

13All the Dogs

14Me and Benjy

15After Dinner

16Up on the Roof

17Dog in Space

18The Money Tree

19Worrying Days

20Flat Bird

21Ghost Story


23A Boy


25Off School

26The New Boy

27Only the Wall

28In the Desert

28The Silent Knight

30The Not-So-Slow Loris

31The Nobody on the Hill

32A New Me


34The Field

35The Bad Girl Haiku

36While I Practise my Piano

37My Party



40The Moon

41The Burglar

42The Butcher


44The Sleeping Sailor


46I Went to the Future

47Maggot Song