Tuesday Poem

Man and Boy


‘Catch the old one first’
(My father’s joke was also old, and heavy
And predictable). ‘then the young ones
Will all follow, and Bob’s your uncle.’

On slow bright river evenings, the sweet time
Made him afraid we’d take too much for granted
And so our spirits must be lightly checked.

Blessed be down-to-earth! Blessed be highs!
Blessed be the attachment of dumb love
In that broad-backed, low-set man
Who feared debt all his life, but now and then
Could make a splash like the salmon he said he was
‘A big as a wee pork pig by the sound of it’.


In earshot of the pool where the salmon jumped
Back through its own unheard concentric soundwaves
A mower leans forever on his scythe.

He has mown himself to the center of the field
And stands in a final perfect ring
of sunlit stubble.

‘Go and tell your father,’ the mower says
(He said it to my father who told me),
‘I have it mowed as clean as a new sixpence.’

My father is a barefoot boy with news,
Running at eye-level with weeds and stooks
On the afternoon of his own father’s death.

The open, black half of the half-door waits.
I feel much heat and hurry in the air.
I feel his legs and quick heels far away

And strange as my own—when he will piggyback me
At a great height, light-headed and thin-boned,
Like a witless elder rescued from the fire.

by Seamus Heaney
Seeing Things
Faber & Faber, 1991