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The Igloo

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Outside the igloo he waited
for an invitation to come inside.
There was no knocker, no doorbell.
He coughed, there was no reply.

He crouched down and peered in.
He felt the warm air from a fire
pat his cheeks and ruffle his hair.
Hello he said quietly and repeated it.

The frost in his toes urged him in,
so did the pain in his gut. His knees
one by one welcomed the snow
and brought him into the warmth.

He stood up and breathed deeply.
He held a foot up to the flames
then swapped it for the other foot.
He lay down on the polar bear rug

but a smell yanked him upright again
and led him to a dresser of  bone
where a bowl sat with a cover on it.
He lifted this to reveal dried meat.

He grabbed a chunk and tore at it
with his teeth. It was reindeer.
He devoured all that was in the bowl
and went looking for some more.

He found none, but there was a bottle
of firewater which he swigged.
He swigged again and left it down.
He lay on the bearskin and fell asleep.

Source: Poetry (April 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Igloo

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  • Matthew Sweeney was born in Lifford, Ireland. He studied German and English at the Polytechnic of North London and the University of Freiburg in Germany. His poetry, which is often fable-like and humorous, shows the influence of Irish- and German-language literary traditions and writers, including Franz Kafka. He writes, as he noted in an interview with Lidia Vianu, “imagistic narrative” that “strays beyond realism” to a mode he calls “alternative realism.”
    Sweeney’s collections of poetry include A Dream of Maps (1981), A Round House (1983), The Lame Waltzer (1985), Blue Shoes (1989), Cacti (1992), The Bridal Suite (1997), A Smell of Fish (2000), Selected Poems (2002), Black Moon (2007), The Night Post: A New Selection (2010), Horse Music (2013), and Inquisition Lane (2015). He has also written poetry for children: The Flying Spring Onion (1992) and Up on the Roof: New and Selected Poems (2001).
    A recipient of the Cholmondeley Award and the Arts...

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