12 Degrees & Skiving

what began as year-long challenge has become perpetual until further notice

Seamus Heaney – Punishment

I was very sad to read yesterday that another brilliant poet has upped and flown off. I discovered Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney at university and immediately loved his sympathetic and deftly melancholic writing.

This is one of my favourites:

 

Punishment

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilised outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

–Seamus Heaney, 1975

4 comments on “Seamus Heaney – Punishment

  1. Mike
    August 31, 2013

    An apt choice in homage. Thank you.

    • ali in italia
      September 8, 2013

      Thank you, Mike, although hard pressed to choose a poem in regards to paying homage. Very sad.

  2. dixiedeano
    September 1, 2013

    Lovely epitaph for this great man, his poem ‘Digging’ reminds me of my childhood helping my father digging potatoes, he ignited my interest in poetry with this poem.

    • ali in italia
      September 8, 2013

      “…Under my window, a clean rasping sound…” reminds me, too, of listening to my Dad digging the garden while I sat inside and drew or wrote or did homework. I love poetry for its little hooks in time.

Tell me wotcha reckon

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