The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–“Digging”

June 15, 2012 at 12:01AM

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.


Posted on June 15, 2012, in The Write Sisters. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–“Digging”.

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