Heaney in an Irish Pub, Washington, DC
To reach the bar, he’s got to angle sideways—
the whooping clusters of bureaucrats and staffers
and aspiring pols don’t naturally give way,
nor do they part for him as, jostled and unnoticed
in his wilted raincoat, he ferries the Guinness back
to his table of literary riffraff and strays.
But the touring band, turning their jigs and reels,
know him by sight: as the squeeze box breathes,
the penny whistler’s fingers curl and splay,
their eyes return, through the blind crowd, to him.
Down from the stage at the break they shyly bend
to shake, to present in return, a gift, a tape.
Rare to see, here where art is kept
or held apart, how tenderly they know him
as one of theirs, a fine voice, true, trained on home,
and him asking them to sign their tape!
Later, resuming, they’re chuffed, grinning broadly.
How can the crowd know why, but joy leaks
from the band’s leavened tone and stance and touch
and up we rise—the whole room—on a tune.
by Sandy Solomon
from Plume Magazine