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For the Digger

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)

Digging, by Seamus Heaney.


A native of the North Shore of Boston, I currently live on Long Island, New York. I worked at Boston College as the Acting Director of The Church in the 21st Century Center until August, 2010 and served until November 2016 as Canon for Formation, and Dean of the George Mercer Jr. School of Theology of the Diocese of Long Island. I am now Rector at the Church of Saint Anselm of Canterbury in Shoreham, New York.

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