Friday, June 15, 2012

Poetry Friday--"Digging"

Last week while I was looking for poems about poems, I came across a poem by Seamus Heaney. It's about being a poet, being a son, and the transmutation of physical labor--at least that's the way I read it. Since Father's Day is coming up on Sunday, I thought this would a fitting choice for today.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, 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.
You should definitely visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Round-Up before heading off for a weekend of dad-miration!


Photo courtesy Library of Congress.


Andy said...

My father would have loved that poem. Thanks for bringing him back for a few moments this Father's Day weekend, Diane.

Mary Lee said...

Love the idea that we can dig sod with whatever tool we have at hand, even if it's a pen with which to write poems.


Nice way of looking at it, Mary Lee!

Andy, did your father come from a long line of sod diggers?

Tabatha said...

Great poem! Thanks for sharing it, Diane.

Travel Guides for Women said...

Andy's dad a sod digger.. . . Funny, D.