Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Poem for Saturday

Heaney & Kopland

Talk show and pub wisdom insist
“Live only in the present”
but, old and contrary, I assert:
“There is only the future
where past is always present”.

Two grey-haired poets
read from memories
(But memories made present -
Yanks in Derry and Afghanistan,
Horace’s Twin Towers thunder).
Turned pages in the roll call
of the dead or soon to die -
friends, lovers, relatives -
like the roll call of years
(I remember writing 1956
In my school copybook)

In the age of black and white
I first saw him read.
My mother said:
“A car killed his little brother.”
Much later I connected all,
two white deal coffins,
each less than four foot
made and painted by her uncle,
held her sons,
brothers I never knew.
Ticks on the roll book
nowhere now, every day.

first published in Revival magazine January 2007.

I wrote this poem after attending a reading in Dublin by Seamus Heaney and Dutch poet Rutger Kopland. Heaney spoke about memories and poetry and I remembered watching him on the Late Late Show in the late 60s reading as part of a young poets item. He read Mid-Term Break and my mother who as far as I knew had no particular interest in poetry said after he read "His little brother was killed in a car crash". Two brothers of mine had died in infancy and I wondered if mother was thinking of this as she heard the poem. The last line is from a poem by Kopland.

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