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.
~ from Digging, by Seamus Heaney, published 1966
I woke this morning to news that his life had ended.
Why do I weep tonight for a man I never met?
Is it because I read his words of poem and
Prose and find their hearty truth gentling and
Wrestling deep in me? Is it because his humanity
Looms larger than the conflicts he lived through, or
Because his mind and heart from a distance appear
Conjoined such that he looks real even from here, or
Because from the time he picked up the pen to dig
He excavated not a hole, much less an abyss,
But rather an open place, a window to what is above,
And to truth seen hovering just above meaning?
Whatever it be, it is, and I give thanks for the words
He leaves behind, while mourning to see his back moving
Away. I want to call “thank you Seamus” for working a
Lifetime but respect for the man bids me silent
Save for this fainthearted trowel.
(J McGinty 8.30.13)