He pushed the wheelchair up the hill
to the old church that opened once a year
for the arrival of the Easter procession
fresh from the winding path and the stations,
each with its defaced Roman soldiers.
His octogenarian father looked down
at the terraces other Roman soldiers
had set out for vines – long supplanted
by fig and olive trees, though rumours
of vine-revival echoed round the valley.
Up above, the mountains formed a line,
a barrier between them and the sea.
His father asked to be helped up to peer
through a window at the small altar,
at the icons, the all-but-unused pews.
Going down, the problem wasn’t straining,
or sweating, but braking. They made it to Pepé’s
bar in the Square, by the newer church
with its bells and Rwandan padre who stood
at the door as he arrived at the outside table
with a tray holding a bottle of red El Coto
Rioja, two glasses, a plate of chorizo,
to find his father rapt in an older man’s
struggle uphill with a Zimmer frame, then turning,
taking wine, to toast the man, who didn’t notice.
This poem is included in Matthew Sweeney's collection 'Black Moon' published by Cape in July 2007 ISBN9780224080927 and shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. The poem was conceived at Matthew Sweeney's course 'Poetry in Fiesta' September 2006. Matthew Sweeney took third place in the National Poetry Competition in 2010. His latest collection is 'The Night Post' (Salt ISBN 97818844714841)