Treasure Island

Seamus Heaney

(April 13,1939 - August 30, 2013 / Castledàwson, County Londonderry)

Digging


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Submitted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Edited: Monday, May 06, 2013

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  • iain Robb (3/14/2014 4:30:00 PM)

    A classic piece of near line-broken prose rubbish, by a tin-eared old bore who will be forgotten just as soon as the next poet comes along willing to write odes to potatoes, and machines for cutting up turnips. Sadly, there's too many of those about, but hopefully our current editors will all be replaced someday by people with a sense for real poetry. In the meantime, let's just enjoy the utter inaptitude of an allusion between a spade and a pen. (Report) Reply

  • May Obrien (10/30/2013 8:12:00 AM)

    i adore this poem, it's so delicious to the ear; it's so vivid and clear. [3 (Report) Reply

  • Reuven Goldfarb (5/13/2012 12:05:00 PM)

    The main problem with this generally useful list is the frequent typographical errors that some people make when entering a poem. Mistakes in copying can be corrected by careful proofreading and comparing the original text (assuming that it's accurate) with the copy. I should think that the two errors in the second line would be obvious. (Report) Reply

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