Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From the frontier of writing

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move

with guarded unconcerned acceleration-

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.
Eagle patrol, Co. Tyrone, July 1985
So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you're through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you'd passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.

Seamus Heaney
(* 13. April 1939)


In praise of ...


  1. Wasn't he born on the thirteenth? or wasn't that your point? either way, I'm a pedant and a confused one at that.

    In closing, thanks :)

  2. Excellent choice Sean. When I can get upstairs I will be digging out some Heaney

  3. When I read this poem (my first from Seamus Heaney) the communication was so perfect, all I could say, a bit breathlessly, was, "Yes!..."

    Since then, I have read many of his poems, and his eloquent lecture, when he received the Nobel Prize. My reaction to everything, one by one and together, is still a breathless, "Yes!..."

    He has the poet's power to reach our inner being. Thank you, Sean, for the introduction.

  4. Chris,
    instead of lamenting about ageing bloggers and decreasing memory: Wasn't it nice a gesture to make the poet two days younger? :)

    [Hiding under the rocks of Seanhenge]

    cast the cast away, climb upstairs! :)

    I am glad that you are with me rather than with those critics who were mocking when Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize.

  5. People with guns in public places give me the creeps. Nobody is immune to carelessness, moments of madness, misunderstandings, and so on. Hell, even a sneeze can be deadly in some circumstances.