Saturday, August 31, 2013

For Seamus Heaney (1939 - 2013)

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.

Seamus Heaney

 "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

Source: Death of a Naturalist (1966)

See The Poetry Foundation

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Notes from Spain

You get some random thoughts sitting on a beach. Here is an extract from my notebook:

The bar was called 'Saez' and it had the symbol of a mermaid in silhouette.

'No dignity, no real existence is possible for a man who works twelve hours a day and still has no notion of what his work means.' Malraux, 'Man's Estate', p.63

Email click@bbc to ask what they know about 'in silica' testing in pharma.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Wall

My brother sent me a book called 'The Wall' by Marlen Haushofer. Haushofer was an Austrian writer born in 1920. She married in 1941, divorced in 1950 and then re-married her husband in 1958. I have started to read 'The Wall' and it is very interesting. The novel is post-apocalyptic with a woman trying to survive when as far as she can tell all life on earth has been removed apart from the small area around her hunting lodge and is separated with a wall. In the new environment she has to survive on her own means with only a few animals and sparse supplies.
'The Wall' was written between 1960-63 but only published in 1968. She writes about the unique aspect of female life - the anxiety of being able to love. She realises that the animals that she loves cannot always be under her protection, something bad could happen at any time because the cat for example will go out on her own into the forest at night:

"Sometimes long before the wall existed I wished I was dead, so that I could finally cast off my burden. I always kept quiet about this weary load; a man wouldn't have understood, and the women felt exactly the same way as I did. And so we preferred to chat about clothes, friends and the theatre, keeping our secret, consuming worry in our eyesEach of us knew about it, and that's why we never discussed it. That was the price we paid for our ability to love."


'The Wall' has been made into a film. Look out for it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thought for the day

"The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us."


This is from Padraig O'Morain's mindfulness thoughts for the day.