hope and history

excerpt from The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.



Thanks to Yvonne for this connection.

the rain and the poetry

I was delayed today, by the rain and the poetry. And because I misread the timetable.

When I got to my class (proper writing class, with homework) we had to write on from the phrase ‘the rain began at midnight’. I remembered reading poems about rain and water. I wished I remembered the Simon Armitage ones. I wrote a drivel type stream of consciousness (poems-soft-what we wear-who we are-on the street where you live-singing in the rain-marshmallow of comfort-soggy-mushrooms-nourishment-defines and confines) while all around me people wrote real things, with themes, ideas and stories. They could read them out; mine was hardly legible.

I had to come back to my discovery of the early morning, Roscommon Rain, by James Harpur.

When the rain stopped the rain began

And clattered beads of runny light against the panes

Decreased and crept inside the ghosts of sheep

And seeped inside the warmth of prostrate cows.

Then pelted bogs to syrupy peat

Made gravelly lanes glitter again

Beneath the melting greys of cloud and cloud

Pierced the puddles with a thousand stings

Tumbled silver through the hedges

And off the skinned shin-bones of trees;

Swept, soft again, like a haze of locusts

Across the ridge, then shifted shape in sudden wind

Drifting, finer than chimney smoke,

Like a passing pang of some great loss

Away from where more rain was coming in

From somewhere else beyond the world’s rim

Erasing gradually the misconception

That the world had ever not been rain

And rain would cease before the end of time.

a pome

Recovery, by James Byrne

Let me imagine you coming home
from the dark, between body and mind.

Making evidence of yourself
the way a tree waves up from its shadow.

There are dinner-halls you have silenced
with a single spark of wit,

there are men you have governed
through pure scent, pure posture.

Now for your most difficult trick:
to restart a life that ends by turning into gold.

In September (the month that tends to all others)
let me be able to conjure your best side,

to have some kind of grip on the intactness
of living, the way mirrors do.

Lines from this have been floating round my head since July, when James Byrne read it at the John Hewitt summer school. Other poems and poets moved me more at the time, but I keep being drawn back to this one.

When I work out why, I’ll let you know.

our great loss

I’ll never see Heaney now

Who will tell us the truth about ourselves?

Who will make us listen?

Who will keep us from the herd?

Who will remind us of the hope and the history, our foolishness, and our losses?

Rest now, Seamus.

Clearances, VIII

I thought of walking round and around a space

Utterly empty, utterly a source

Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place

In our front hedge above the wallflowers.

The white chips jumped and jumped and skitted high.

I heard the hatchet’s differentiated

Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh

And collapse of what luxuriated

Through the shocked tips and wreckage of it all.

Deep-planted and long gone, my coeval

Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,

Its heft and hush became a bright nowhere,

A soul ramifying and forever

Silent, beyond silence listened for.