Sweeney Encounters a Russian Adventurer in the Avon Valley
Sweeney had to do his shopping at Northam Coles.
There was a lot of kerfuffle in the town and more
than a few foreign voices. He was surprised
to find the foreigners were not being attacked
by locals. On his asking why, a teenager stacking shelves
told him, It’s because they’ll only be here for a while.
What was going on? Sweeney took to the airwaves.
Birds of a feather, we might interpolate. Just outside town
he came across a vast balloon being spread out and filled with night.
He swooped down and found a man who looked like
a heavily bearded Dennis Hopper. He caught the name
of this wild man whom he recognised as a holy obsessive.
Almost like me, he said. A Russian. There were many voices
speaking Russian. I know Russian, said Sweeney — I get pictures
wired to my headspace from a poet in his country dacha
every winter, every summer. It’s cold here in winter,
but not as cold as it gets in Russia. That’s the definition of cold
in overheated times. The balloon was filling and the zeal
of the adventurer was palpable. All of this just for him.
His name was Fedor Konyukhov. He was aiming to loop
the earth from sunrise. To smash a record. The media, cloying and clinging,
were saying he sees the world as a place to conquer: mountains,
oceans, everything. Sweeney could see vast swathes of mangroves
dying in the far side of the country but in his gondola Fedor Konyukhov
would fly nowhere near them. Sweeney watched the balloon rise
with the sun, hung around and did a couple of interviews, then flew back
to Coles to finish his shopping. I feel like the stork delivering my own birth,
he said, adding a few more cans to his stash.