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Friday, August 30, 2013


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

I will miss you so much.....

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I'm discovering him through your blog...sad not to have discovered him sooner.
    A wonderful selection of poems, thanks to you and your friends.
    And a photo that just leaps off the page with joy in living.
    2847 days ago
    And we have lost another bright star.
    2849 days ago
  • no profile photo CD13231517
    The good they do die young, and if anyone was forever young, it was Seamus Heaney.
    Thank you for this blog, Natalie.

    Digging (1966)
    By Seamus Heaney 1939–2013

    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests; 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.

    2850 days ago
    I love teaching his poems. Sure a brilliant man. He will be missed.
    2853 days ago
  • BOPPY_
    Enjoyed the post (but sorry about the circumstances) and the comments.

    Thank you all,

    2854 days ago
    am sure he is having a whisky with James Joyce....
    Mid-Term Break

    I sat all morning in the college sick bay
    Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
    At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

    In the porch I met my father crying--
    He had always taken funerals in his stride--
    And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

    The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
    When I came in, and I was embarrassed
    By old men standing up to shake my hand

    And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
    Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
    Away at school, as my mother held my hand

    In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
    At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
    With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

    Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
    And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
    For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

    Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
    He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
    No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

    A four foot box, a foot for every year.
    2854 days ago
    Oh, no!! I hadn't seen the report of Heaney's passing. That is sad, sad news. I had the privilege of being chosen to participate in a poetry-writing workshop with him back in the '80s. We went out for a beer afterwards. He had been making the rounds of American universities for several months and was eager to get home, missing his daughter. Such a kind and lovely man . . . and of course, a brilliant poet. I will cherish my signed copy of his collected poems all the more . . .
    2854 days ago
    I love this poem and so many others... but also, I have helped many high school students actually learn to love Beowulf due to his masterful translation. There's really nothing that touches it. He's one of my heroes - I hadn't known about this until I saw your blog, Natalie.
    2855 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12935469
    Such a unique voice. Thanks for the poem. My favorite is The Republic of Conscience.
    2855 days ago
    Thanks for this blog. We met him about 8 years ago and were blessed to hear him read and speak. I have a broadside of one of his pieces (The Lift) signed by him framed on our bedroom wall.
    2855 days ago
    Awww. I hadn't read this news yet today until I saw your blog. What a great poet!
    2855 days ago
    We were indeed fortunate to have had him and to have all the gifts he leaves forever.
    2855 days ago
  • LEANIE64
    The irony of it all..
    2855 days ago
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