Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From Clearances 5

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984
The cool that came off the sheets just off the line
Made me think the damp must still be in them
But when I took my corners of the linen
And pulled against her, first straight down the hem
And then diagonally, then flapped and shook
The fabric like a sail in a cross-wind,
They made a dried-out undulating thwack.
So we'd stretch and fold and end up hand to hand
For a split second as if nothing had happened
For nothing had that had not always happened
Beforehand, day by day, just touch and go,
Coming close again by holding back
In moves where I was x and she was o
Inscribed in sheets she'd sewn from ripped-out flour sacks.
I heard this poem on the radio the other night just as I was falling asleep. It reminded me of something and I wasn't sure what until I heard the unforgettable sounds of the words 'dried out undulating thwack' and I was 14 again next to the ancient radiators in my high ceilinged English classroom. I had a ridiculous English teacher who gave us A*s just because she knew we were capable of them! One of my most enduring memories of her lessons was getting away with delivering a whole scene of Arthur Miller's 'A view from the Bridge' in a deep south accent. Mainly because it was the only American accent we thought we could carry off but also because it made us laugh so much to say 'laak in the baaibel' (like in the bible for those of you who can't follow my dodgy southern American phonetic speak!). But alongside all the ridiculous antics this was the time of my life when the I started to be aware of how amazingly beautiful and surprising language can be. I found this other poem when looking for the above one and I think it is just as wonderful, they were both written as part of a series by Seamus Heaney in memory of his mother.
From Clearances 3
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives--
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
Go here to listen to the man himself read them out.


At 2:54 AM, Blogger Scribbler said...

Gorgeous poem. Check out the one I posted. x

At 2:59 AM, Blogger Silicon Whisperer said...

I like. Tis cool.


Post a Comment

<< Home