two poems

sea­mus heaney


a soft whoosh, the sun­set blaze

of straw on black­ened stubble,

a thatch-deep, freshing

bar­barous crim­son burn-

i rode down england

as they fired the crop

that was the leav­ings of a crop,

the smashed two-coloured barley,

down from ely’s lady chapel,

the sweet tenor latin

for­ev­er banished,

the sump­tu­ous windows

threshed clear by thomas cromwell.

which cir­cle does the tread,

scald­ing on cobbles,

each one a bro­ken statue’s head?

after mid­night, after summer,

to walk in a spark­ing field,

to smell dew and ashes

and start will brangwen’s ghost

from the hot soot-

a break­ing sheaf of light,

abroad in the hiss

and clash of stooking.


after the out­burst and the ter­ri­ble squalls

i hooped you with my arms

and remem­bered that what could be contained

inside this caliper embrace

the dutch called bosom; and fathom

what the extend­ed arms took in.

i have reclaimed my polder,

all its salty grass and mud-slick banks;

under fath­oms of air, like an old willow

i stir a lit­tle on my creel of roots.


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