Poem

Two Poems by Seamus Heaney

June 24, 2013

I wanted to add something from Seamus Heaneys new collection of poetry, HUMAN CHAIN published by Faber. Heaney of course is a Nobel prize winner, and he deserves to be, but there is always a worry that poetry gets lost in prizes. The new collection is lovely.

I was very moved by In the Attic and in autumn in the country as I am, the winds in Had I not been awake, are like my winds.

Had I not been awake

HAD I NOT BEEN AWAKE I WOULD HAVE MISSED IT,
A WIND THAT ROSE AND WHIRLED UNTIL THE ROOF
PATTERED WITH QUICK LEAVES OFF THE SYCAMORE

AND GOT ME UP, THE WHOLE OF ME A-PATTER,
ALIVE AND TICKING LIKE AN ELECTRIC FENCE:
HAD I NOT BEEN AWAKE I WOULD HAVE MISSED IT,

IT CAME AND WENT SO UNEXPECTEDLY
AND ALMOST IT SEEMED DANGEROUSLY,
RETURNING LIKE AN ANIMAL TO THE HOUSE,

A COURIER BLAST THAT THERE AND THEN
LASPED ORDINARY. BUT NOT EVER
AFTER. AND NOT NOW.

IN THE ATTIC

1. LIKE JIM HAWKIN ALOFT IN THE CROSS-TREES
OF HISPANIOLA, NOTHING UNDERNEATH HIM
BUT STILL GREEN WATER AND CLEAN BOTTOM SAND,

THE SHIP AGROUD, THE CANTED MAST FAR OUT
ABOVE A SEA-FLOOR WHERE STRIPED FISH PASS IN SHOALS-
AND WHEN THEYVE PASSED, THE FACE OF ISRAEL HANDS

THAT ROSE IN THE SHROUDS BEFORE JIM SHOT HIM DEAD
APPEARS TO RISE AGAIN. BUT HE WAS DEAD ENOUGH
THE STORY SAYS, BEING BOTH SHOT AND DROWNED.

2. A BIRCH TREE PLANTED TWENTY YEARS AGO
COMES BETWEEN THE IRISH SEA AND ME
AT THE ATTIC SKYLIGHT A MAN MAROONED

IN HIS OWN LOFT, A BOY
SHIPSHAPED IN THE CROWS NEST OF A LIFE,
AIRBRUSHED TO AND FRO, WIND-DRUNK, BRACED

BY ALL THATS THRUMMING UP FROM KEEL TO MASTHEAD,
RUBBING HIS EYES TO BELIEVE THEM AND THIS MOST
BUOYANT, BILLOWY, TOPGALLENT BIRCH

3. GHOST-FOOTING WHAT WAS THEN THE TERRA FIRMA
OF HALLWAY LINOLEUM, GRANDFATHER NOW APPEARS,
HIS VOICE A-WAVER LIKE THE DRAUGHT-PRONE SCREEN

THEYD SET UP IN THE CLUB ROOMS EARLIER
FOR THE MATINEE IVE JUST COME BACK FROM.
AND ISAAC HANDS, HE ASKS, WAS ISAAC IN IT?

HIS MEMORY OF THE NAME A-WAVER TOO,
HIS MISTAKE PERPETUAL, ONCE AND FOR ALL
LIKE THE SINGLE SPLASH WHERE ISRAELS BODY FELL.

4. AS I AGE AND BLANK ON NAMES,
AS MY UNCERTAINTY ON STAIRS
IS MORE AND MORE THE LIGHTHEADEDNESS

OF A CABIN BOYS FIRST TIME ON THE RIGGING,
AS THE MEMORABLE BOTTOMS OUT
INTO THE IRRETRIEVABLE,

ITS NOT THAT I CANT IMAGINE STILL
THE SLIGHT UNTOWARD RUPTURE AND WORLD-TILT
AS A WIND FRESHENED AND THE ANCHOR WEIGHED.