This Is Happening:
Today, in my first
I will officiate the wedding
of two former students of mine.
I have written some words for,
rehearsed and supped with
these two bright stars from
some deep place earlier
in my career some
15 years back. And I wonder
at this turn of events,
this, perhaps the headiest
gift a teacher could ever
receive from the work,
an invitation to be a part
of this most profound
moment in his students’ lives.
I’m staggered by the honor,
humbled by the task,
nervous, sure, but
mostly thankful beyond
imagination for a vocation
that makes possible
this kind of happening.
I don’t know what
I’m going to wear yet
but I am rehearsed
and ready for my first
sacred task. Yes.
This is happening.
Filed under Poetry, Teaching
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
from “Digging” by Seamus Heaney
For Seamus Heaney
Many years ago now I wrote a poem about my father
inspired by Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,”
the first Heaney poem I ever read.
In the same way the poet continues
his father’s work on the potato farms in Ireland
by digging with the pen, uncovering his family history,
the history of his people and their land,
I tried to trace my own
need to dig to some glimpse of my father’s life
as a young man. My dad, like Heaney’s dad,
was not literary, but neither was he a farmer
or a man given to laboring with his hands.
But I remembered as a child seeing a love note
my dad had written to my mother at the very
beginning of their 50 plus years of marriage.
There was that glimpse, there, not nearly
as rich as Heaney’s metaphor, but at least
a small hint of where the words in my world
might have originated–in an impulse, perhaps,
the only discovered one of it’s kind in an entire life,
to write something that could make a difference
to another human being. For that, I thank my father.
And for the poem that nudged me in that direction
and the hundreds of other poems left to us
by Seamus Heaney, I feel an almost unfathomable
gratitude. In Heaney’s potato drills, his wells,
his bog land, and in his Troubles, we see almost
an entire world, our world, reflected back at us,
throbbing, glistening, beckoning for our
most conscious attention.
I can barely hammer a nail
into a piece of wood,
but this guy comes over to
repair glass, wire things up,
lay tile, fix the plumbing,
measure twice, cut once,
hang finish carpentry
and restore old lamp fixtures
to their original glory.
I never developed these skills
or had the inclination to
and now I am paying for it–
but gladly. It’s a wonder
the variety of stuff this guy does
so effortlessly and with such expertise
and I begin to understand
and appreciate and deeply value
all the things for which I am
woefully unprepared and nearly incapable.
After I write the check, that is,
I share my enthusiasm in the
only other way I can: words on a page.