Seamus Heaney, 1939 – 2013

The tweets below were posted on 30 August 2013, and were intended to mark the passing that day of Seamus Heaney. Like most tweets, they were spontaneous reactions to events. And like all tweets, they are limited to 140 characters. They are presented here exactly as they originally appeared.

They are not intended to be read as a formal tribute, and certainly not as a poem in his memory. That task falls to much greater talents than mine.

You did this. You showed us we were right to think it our own, the language we found gleaming in ditches, the leavings of queens.

You paced out the avenue, took your ease in the drawing room. And this the home of the statesman, the trembling mage, the fairy-fancier.

When you opened the cabinets, certain items stilled you. A thick hilt, crumbed in fast blood. You passed over opera glasses, posied plates.

You went over old ground, down two spits. Past the sweet tilth to the cold, sharded glut. To hoe blades, dim chalices, back teeth.

You smoothed out the unwritten leaf. Felt it chaste as sick day sheets. Of one weave with summer dresses, with the tatters after bombs.

You were garlanded, and yet the least bedecked. You scored the rich hems of cardinals. Listened for the flit and thud, the dagger drop.

You were not allergic to finery. There it all was, after all: the lushness of Arden, the blinded angel, the smoking organs of the city.

You knew this much. It is not bequeathed by mist. It is seeded by archers, it flowers in the wounds. It maps your fingertips with grease.

You knew the crossings. The ardour of the albatross, the long striving. You remembered all of the water.

You knew how night felt all along. The mute, uncandled thrall, the edge of every birthday cake.

1939 – 2013.

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