From Station Island

Seamus Heanny

Like a convalescent, I took the hand
Stretched down from the jetty, sensed again
An alien comfort as I stepped on ground

To find the helping hand still gripping mine,
Fish-cold and bony, but whether to guide
Or to be guided I could not be certain

For the tall man in step at my side
Seemed blind, though he walked straight as a rush
Upon his ash plant, his eyes fixed straight ahead.

Then I know him in the flesh
Out there on the tarmac among the cars,
Wintered hard and sharp as a blackthorn bush.

His voice eddying with the vowels of all rivers
Came back to me, though he did not speak yet,
A voice like a prosecutor’s or a singer’s,

Cunning, narcotic, mimic, definite
As a steel nib’s downstroke, quick and clean,
And suddenly he hit a ltter basket

With his stick, saying, ‘Your obligation
Is not discharged by any common rit.
What you must do mut be done on your own

So get back inharness. The main thing is to write
For the joy of it. Cultivate a work-luist
That imagines its haven like your hands at night

Dreaming the su n in the sunspot of abreast.
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest,

Let others wear the sackcloth and the ashes.
Let go, let fly, forget.
You’ve listened long enough. Now strike your note.’

It was as if I had stepped free into space
Alone with nothing that I had not known
Already. Raindrops blew in my face

As I came to. ‘Old father, mother’s son,
There is a moment in Stephen’s diary
For April the thirteenth, a revelation

Set among my stars __ that one entry
Has been a sort of password in my ears,
The collect of a new epiphany,

The Feast of the Hold Tundish.’ ‘Who cares,’
He jeered, ‘any more? The English languate belongs to us. You are raking at dead fires,

A waste of time for somebody your age.
That subject people stuff is a cod’s game,
Infantile, llike your preassnat pilgrimage.

You lose more of yourself than you redeem
Doing the decent thing. Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim

Out on your own and fill the element
With signatures on your own frequency,
Echo soundings, searches, probes, allurements,

Elver-gleams in the dark of the whole sea.’
The showere broke in a cloudburst, the tarmac
Fumed and sizzled. As he moved off quickly

The downpour loosed its screens round his straight walk.

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