Yesterday, April 13th, was the birthday of poet Seamus Heaney. My father’s birthday is also this month and when I pulled this volume of Heaney’s poems off my bookshelf, I remembered that this was yet another gift of verse my dad had given to me a number of years ago.
Here’s a poem about fathers and sons. (My father is alive and well, despite what the sentiment of the verse implies.)
My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horses strained at his clicking tongue.
As expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the header, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land.
His eye Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,—Seamus Heaney, Poems 1965-1975
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.