Saturday, August 31, 2013

Digging - Seamus Heaney

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.

*****************************
Michiko Kakutani - Heaney appraisal in the NY Times:
Capturing Rhythms of Nature in Poems - With other links in the article

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney Dies

BBC News: Heaney Dies

In 2008, Heaney told All Thing Considered that
"I have always thought of poems as stepping stones in one's own sense of oneself. Every now and again, you write a poem that gives you self-respect and steadies your going a little bit farther out in the stream. At the same time, you have to conjure the next stepping stone because the stream, we hope, keeps flowing."
Now it's high watermark
And floodtide in the heart
And time to go...
What's left to say?
Suspect too much sweet talk
But never close your mind.
It was a fortunate wind
That blew me here. I leave
Half-ready to believe
That a crippled trust might walk
And the half-true rhyme is love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Death of Santa Claus

The Death of Santa Claus by Charles Harper Webb

He's had the chest pains for weeks,
but doctors don't make house
calls to the North Pole,

he's let his Blue Cross lapse,
blood tests make him faint,
hospital gown always flap

open, waiting rooms upset
his stomach, and it's only
indigestion anyway, he thinks,

until, feeding the reindeer,
he feels as if a monster fist
has grabbed his heart and won't

stop squeezing. He can't
breathe, and the beautiful white
world he loves goes black,

and he drops on his jelly belly
in the snow and Mrs. Claus
tears out of the toy factory

wailing, and the elves wring
their little hands, and Rudolph's
nose blinks like a sad ambulance

light, and in a tract house
in Houston, Texas, I'm 8,
telling my mom that stupid

kids at school say Santa's a big
fake, and she sits with me
on our purple-flowered couch,

and takes my hand, tears
in her throat, the terrible
news rising in her eyes.

The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb, from Reading the Water. © Northeastern University Press, 1997

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Composer Says This is How We Should Live Our Lives

The Composer Says This is How We Should Live Our Lives - by Patricia Fargnoli

He lifts his violin and gives us the fox
in Ireland running with wild abandon
along the cliff-edge above the wild Irish Sea

and I am back in Connemara where even
the pasture stones have names and the green
slopes are plentiful with stones and the sea-wind

where there are no trees to stop it rollicks
across the commonage and the sea's a wild rolling
and the composer's brown hair is whipping around

his young intense face as his arm jigs and swings
the bow across the strings and his body is swaying
and his shoulders are leaping and the music is leaping

and the fox is running with such joy along that cliff
red fox brilliant green pasture cerulean sky
and the wind and the white-capped

plum-blue ocean and a man's foot measuring time
in the sun that is beyond brilliant and the fox is leaping
forward along the cliff-edge.

"The Composer Says This is How We Should Live Our Lives" by Patricia Fargnoli, from Duties of the Spirit. © Tupelo Press, 2005.