#56: For Seamus Heaney


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.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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