Mordechai in Slogger, October, 1974
Mordechai in Slogger, 1974
rooting through books in a box outside
‘Barney’s Remainders’ in Bermondsey,
Rambling Boy was marked at one and sixpence.
‘one and six? Barney won’t miss it.’
stuffing the book in my jacket pocket,
I nicked it.
I read it avidly,
losing myself in Mordechai Sweeney’s
tragi-comic world of whimsy
where everyone sang,
everyone danced, everyone drank,
and celebrated living – at weddings and wakes.
I made it my mission to meet him,
make him my friend,
and get, if I could,
an introduction to his agent.
I sleuthed him to Slogger, (not in the atlas)
but Slaugar, in Mayo, seemed near enough,
so I flew out to Dublin – Aer Lingus.
no one in Mike Molloy’s bar, (Westport)
had seen Sweeney since summer,
but offered directions
and wished me luck,
‘he’s partial to a drop of Paddy.’
I bought a bottle.
the cottage door was ajar.
I knocked – no answer.
walking in and tripping over
unopened letters, garden tools,
and a rusted bicycle,
I followed my nose
to the faintly warm kitchen.
Sweeney smelled faintly of urine,
dozing on a tattered leather armchair
under a full-sized tiger skin –
(filched from a flea market stall in Fermanagh )
grey hair pony-tailed,
one eye black patched –
he looked bizarre,
a washed-up buccaneer.
a turntable played – on repeat – Kathleen Ferrier singing Mahler.
with Rambling Boy in one hand, the Paddy in the other,
I woke him, asking, ‘how you doing?’
Sweeney stirred, then spotting the bottle, grunted,
‘rinse a cup – there’s one in the sink.’
I filled his glass, my cup, and asked,
‘where do you source your inspiration?’
gazed into nowhere
and lapsed into muttering.
‘I loved a wife… love wasn’t enough… she left me…
I have a family… they ignore me…
I had a muse I adored… but she despised me…
I wake with a hard-on… it’s a mockery…
I split to Ireland… nosey bastards still find me…
everyone… everything… slips away…’
I opened my notebook, licked my pencil,
‘so you draw from the well of a broken heart?’
the black patch yielded a trace of tear,
‘I might if I had a heart to break…’
I poured him another.
a long silence,
a bittersweet smile,
a slow folding into sleep.
I caught his glass as it fell to the floor
and gently closed the cottage door.