Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

My first awareness of Seamus Heaney was sitting with my mother watching a Late Late programme in the late 60s on which a small number of young Irish poets each read one poem. Seamus Heaney read Mid-Term Break. I wasn't aware of any special interest my mother had in poetry but she listened attentively and said at the end "Ah, his little brother was killed in an accident". She didn't know it but the brother's name was Christopher. She herself had lost a little brother called Christopher many years before and later a son of the same name.

Years later I attended a reading in Dublin by Heaney and Dutch poet Rutger Kopland (1934-2012). Heaney spoke about memories and poetry and I wrote this poem afterwards.

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.


Padhraig Nolan said...

Love that last stanza Michael. Today's a sad day indeed.

Rachel Fenton said...

Very moving poem, Michael.

Brian Kirk said...

Great poem Michael - very affecting.