Friday, 30 August 2013

Tribute to Seamus Heaney 3: Digging

Today marks the death of Ulster's most world renowned poet Seamus Heaney as I said earlier I will be sharing some of his work that has touched me through the years for different reasons.

This next one is another experience we both shared, my father had a sizable vegetable patch out the back of the house I spent my formative years in. Planting seeds and harvesting the various vegetables and fruits became a family endeavour. I was too young then to have homeworks over the weekends but later on when we moved house I would on occasion be working away in my room and hear my parents at work in the garden somewhere below me.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Postscript there is something of a irony about this poem inspiring this poet. As someone said to be near the end of my A'Levels I was probably the most widely read poet in the sixth form. The reason being that some of mine would circulate the sixth form centre when we were supposed to be studying and there were more people there than took English Literature.

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