None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.
Melcion Mateu
Photo Credit: Patricia Tagliari
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Photo Credit: Sue Kwon

Language: Catalan
Poet: Melcion Mateu
Translator: Rowan Ricardo Phillips

SHARE:

None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.

Two poems by Melcion Mateu translated from the Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and a musical composition by Alexis Cuadrado

The composer and bassist Alexis Cuadrado wrote music for “The Ballad of Matt Sweeney” that was performed and recorded as a part of POETICA, a collection of original compositions by Cuadrado based on my poems and the poems of Melcion Mateu [pictured on the left]. The collaborators were Alexis Cuadrado on bass, Andy Milne on keyboards, Miles Okazaki on guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums; with Melcion and myself [pictured on the right] providing voice. The band performed during a four-night residency at SEEDS::Brooklyn and a two-night, two-set per night stay at The Jazz Gallery in Manhattan. The following is from a studio session (recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn) for the forthcoming album. Listen and enjoy.

–Rowan Ricardo Phillips 

Melcion Mateu is the author of Vida evident [Obvious Life] (1999), which was awarded the Octavio Paz Poetry Award; Ningú, petit [No One, Little One] (2002); and Jardí amb cangurs [A Garden with Kangaroos] (2005). His most recent book, Illes lligades [Tied Islands], is the winner of the 2014 Jocs Florals de Barcelona poetry prize and will be published in November 2014. Born in Barcelona, to Majorcan parent, Mateu lived in New York City from 2005 until 2014. He holds a PhD from NYU’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, an MA from Cornell University, and a BA from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Mateu currently lives in Florianopolis, Brazil.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is an award-wining poet and the author of The Ground (FSG, 2012) and Heaven, also by FSG, which comes out next June.

Balada De Matt Sweeney

I

Matt Sweeney, el meu company de pis,
és alt i és gras; podria,
si volgués, actuar en un musical.
                            I és que té un do (de pit) realment insòlit,
gairebé com el seu do
de donant –el seu do d’amant, volia dir.
                                         El seu do i el seu re
i el seu mi. Matt Sweeney
ronca al quarto del costat.

L’hauríeu de veure quan es lleva,
amb la calba, amb el cap ple d’antenes retorçades.
Li hauríeu de veure els ulls verds de Heineken,
les ulleres i el nas d’intel·lectual
i la gota del nas, li hauríeu de veure
la boca i les dents i
la llengua i la papada i els pits i el cor
(tatuat damunt del cor), li hauríeu de veure
la panxa i l’esquena i el cul
guaitant-li per damunt dels calçotets.

Matt Sweeney només s’assembla a Matt Sweeney,
sobretot als matins
(sis llaunes de cervesa es beu totes les nits
davant la tele, mirant una soap-opera):
té un cert posat d’entertainer triomfador,
amb el cap embotit de marihuana i un somriure feliç de bon vivant;
Matt Sweeney s’enlaira com un globus,
em mira, obre la boca i diu:
«Good morning, dude!», talment com si acabés de tornar de Califòrnia.
«Mornin’», li responc.

 

II

Matt Sweeney, el meu company
de pis, és un poc especial.
Va tenir un amant filipí
que estava boig pels óssos.
L’abraçava i li deia teddy bear
i en Matt li responia I wanna be your teddy bear
movent el cul com n’Elvis.

Vosaltres no sabeu el que és viure al costat de Matt Sweeney.
(És un ofici tan difícil!)
Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!
«Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd»,
alguns dies em canta.
Jo per ara us explico la vida de Matt Sweeney
i un poc de la meva. Permeteu-me per tant que desafini.

 

III

Realment és un porc:
deixa la pica del lavabo plena de pèls,
la tapa del vàter esquitxada
i sovint es descuida d’estirar la cadena.
No renta els plats fins que no són plens de verdet.
Deixa els calçotets bruts al damunt del sofà,
una sabata a sota,
restes de porro a terra.
Acumula diaris i revistes.
Va perdre un dia el seu raspall de dents
i em va demanar de fer servir el meu. Ni en broma!

Cada nit el sentia masturbant-se al seu quarto
i en acabat roncava fins l’endemà.
Per sota de la porta s’escapaven les xinxes.
Li vaig demanar sisplau
que abaixés el volum de tant en tant.
I em va dir, ben afaitat i fent-se el nus de la corbata:
«I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears
I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth
I-got-my-tongue…!»
                         I encara sense treure’s
els auriculars va afegir:
                       «Benvingut, fill meu,
a l’imperi de Matt Sweeney,
observa al teu voltant i sàpigues que algun dia, estimat»
–i aquí es va dur una mà al pit i l’altra a l’entrecuix–,
«tot això que veus, tot això que t’envolta (i el que no veus i ni tan sols
          imagines) serà teu,
serà teu tot l’imperi –el meu imperi–,
l’imperi de Matt Sweeney!»

The Ballad of Matt Sweeney

I

My roommate, Matt Sweeney,
is tall and fat; if he wanted
he could be in a musical.
                           It’s that his High C is really extraordinary,
almost like his gift
Of giving––his gift as a lover, I meant.
                                                  His do and his re
And his mi. Matt Sweeney
snores in the room next door.

You should see him when he wakes up,
his bald-spot, his head full of twisted antennae.
You should see his Heineken-green eyes,
his glasses and his intellectual
nose and his runny nose, you should see
his mouth and his teeth and
his tongue and his chest and his heart
(tattooed over his heart), you should see
his belly and his back and his ass
jutting out from just above his underwear.

Only Matt Sweeney looks like Matt Sweeney,
especially in the mornings
(he drinks a six pack of beer in front of the TV
every night, watching a soap opera):
he has the assured air of a triumphant entertainer,
with his head stuffed with marihuana and a happy bon vivant smile;
Matt Sweeney rises like a balloon,
looks at himself, opens his mouth and says,
“Good morning, dude!,” as though he’s just gotten back from California.
“Mornin’,” I say back.

 

II

My roommate Matt Sweeney
is a little weird.
He had a Filipino lover
who was crazy for bears.
He’d hug him and call him teddy bear
and Matt would respond with I wanna be your teddy bear
shaking his ass like Elvis.

None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.
(What a pain in the ass it can be!).
Sweeney, Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!
“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,”
he sings sometimes to me.
For the moment, I’m telling you about the life of Matt Sweeney
and a little bit about me. So don’t mind if I sing out of key.

 

III

He’s a real pig:
he leaves the sink full of hairs,
the lid of the toilet splattered,
he often forgets to flush;
he’s doesn’t wash the dishes until they’re covered in grime,
he leaves his dirty underwear on the sofa,
a shoe under it,
spliff ash on the floor;
he lets his newspapers and magazines pile up.
One day he lost his toothbrush
and asked to use mine and I said there was just no way.

Every night I’d hear him jerking off in his room
and when he finished he’d snore until the next day.
Bedbugs fled from under his door.
Once, I asked him nicely
if he could lower the volume once in a while
and, clean shaven and fixing the knot of his tie, he told me:
“I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears
I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth
I-got-my-tongue…!”
                              And then without taking off
his headphones he added:
                              “Welcome, my child,
to the kingdom of Matt Sweeney,
observe all around you and know that some day, my beloved”
––and here he placed one hand on his chest and the other on his crotch––,
“all that you see, all that surrounds you (and all that you neither see nor
             imagine) will be yours,
all of this kingdom will be yours––my kingdom––
the kingdom of Matt Sweeney!”

Gap

Puc fondre el gel amb la Mirada,
puc esborrar una multitud amb un sol parpelleig.
Si m’ho proposés,
podria fer créxer la palmera més alta
al mig d’aquesta plaça.
Puc agafar un grapat d’aigua, palpar-lo i prémer-lo
fins que en surti una pedra.
Els guàdies m’aturen quan vaig pel carrer
i em demanen per mi:
sempre els indico la direcció oposada.
Al matí, en despertar-me,
és normal que el llençol m’arribi al sostre.
Puc veure alguns planets que han deixat d’existir,
i també les estrelles que no han sortit encara.
El meu horòoscop sempre s’acompleix,
el meu destí és el destí dels éssers immortals.
Puc decidir entre la vida i la mort,
entre el somni i allò que no gosem pensar.
Puc fer-te patir
o fer que et sentis l’ésser més feliç de la Terra.

El meu nom és antic,
sóc el rei de la llum.
Quan plou o quan fa fred, em torno una crisàlide.
Al meu costat les papallones sempre tremolen,
no puc fer res per evitar-ho:
el que els alters poetes escriuen,
el que els alters poetes diuen en els seus versos és només una part
––una part molt petita––del que dir i puc fer.

Gap

With just a glance I can melt ice.
I can wipe out multitudes with a single blink.
If I were to suggest it
I could make the tallest of palms rise
right here in the middle of this plaza.
I can grab a fistful of water, palm its surfaces and squeeze
until a stone ekes out.
The cops stop me when I’m out on the street
and ask me if I’ve seen me . . .
I always send them in the opposite direction.
In the morning it’s normal for me to wake up and discover
my tented bed sheet touching the ceiling.
I can see some of the planets that have ceased to exist
as well as the stars that still have yet to be.
My horoscope always comes true.
My destiny is the destiny of immortals.
I get to choose between life and death,
between the dream and the thing that we don’t like to think.
I can make you suffer
or make you feel you’re the happiest being on Earth.

My name is ancient:
I am the king of all light.
I become chrysalis when it rains or when it’s cold.
There are always butterflies trembling at my flanks.
I can’t do anything to avoid it:
what other poets write,
what other poets say in their lines,
it’s all only a part –– a very small part –– of what I can say and what I can do.