Narwhal Party


Inclined To The Appetites Of Gravity
03/18/2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Books, Words | Tags: , , , , ,

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which seems to be the day for all things Irish, I’ve decided to post one of my favorite poems from Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. Heaney’s obsession with “the bog people” of Ireland has produced beautiful results, combining history, spirituality, tradition, and politics.

I recommend reading his Nobel Prize in Literature acceptance speech here. It’s fantastic, even though it’s not my favorite.


Though it’s a bit long for a blog, it’s worth reading in full. Here is “Kinship,” from his wonderful collection, North.

Kinship
i
Kinned by hieroglyphic
Peat on a spreadfield
To the strangled victim,
The love-nest in the bracken,
I step through origins
Like a dog turning
Its memories of wilderness
On the kitchen mat:
The bog floor shakes,
Water cheeps and lisps
As I walk down
Rushes and Heather.
I love this turf-face,
Its black incisions,
The cooped secrets
Of process and ritual;
I love the spring
Off the ground,
Each bank a gallows drop,
Each open pool
The unstopped mouth
Of an urn, a moon-drinker,
Not to be sounded
By the naked eye.

ii
Quagmire, swampland, morass:
The slime kingdoms,
Domains of the cold-blooded,
Of mud pads and dirtied eggs.
But bog
Meaning soft,
The fall of windless rain,
Pupil of amber.
Ruminant ground,
Digestion of mollusc
And seed-pod,
Deep pollen-bin.
Earth-pantry, bone vault,
Sun-bank, embalmer
Of votive goods
And sabred fugitives.
Insatiable bride.
Sword-swallower,
Casket, midden,
Floe of history.
Ground that will strip
Its dark side,
Nesting ground,
Outback of my mind.

iii
I found a turf-spade
Hidden under bracken,
Laid flat, and overgrown
With a green fog.
As I raised it
The soft lips of the growth
Muttered and split,
A tawny rut
Opening at my feet
Like a shed skin,
The shaft wettish
As I sank it upright
And beginning to
Steam in the sun.
And now they have twined
That obelisk:
Among the stones,
Under a bearded cairn
A love-nest is disturbed,
Catkin and bog-cotton tremble
As they raise up
The cloven oak-limb.
I stand at the edge of centuries
Facing a goddess.

iv
This centre holds
And spreads,
Sump and seedbed,
A bag of waters
And a melting grave.
The mothers of autumn
Sour and sink,
Ferments of husk and leaf
Deepen their ochres.
Mosses come to a head,
Heather unseeds,
Brackens deposit
Their bronze.
This is the vowel of earth
Dreaming its root
In flowers and snow,
Mutation of weathers
And seasons,
A windfall composing
The floor it rots into.
I grew out of all this
Like a weeping willow
Inclined to
The appetites of gravity.

v
The hand-carved felloes
Of the turf-cart wheels
Buried in a litter
Of turf mould,
The cupid’s bow
Of the tail-board,
The socketed lips
Of the cribs:
I deified the man
Who rod there,
God of the wagon,
The hearth-feeder.
I was his privileged
Attendant, a bearer
Of bread and drink,
The squire of his circuits.
When summer died
And wives forsook the fields
We were abroad,
Saluted, given right-of-way.
Watch our progress
Down the haw-lit hedges,
My manly pride
When he speaks to me.

vi
And you, Tacitus,
Observe how I make my grove
On an old crannog
Piled by the fearful dead:
A desolate peace.
Our mother ground
Is sour with the blood
Of her faithful,
They lie gargling
In her sacred heart
As the legions stare
From the ramparts.
Come back to this
‘island of the ocean’
where nothing will suffice.
Read the inhumed faces
Of casualty of victim;
Report us fairly,
How we slaughter
For the common good
And shave the heads
Of the notorious,
How the goddess swallows
Our love and terror.

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