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Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

We at Tin House morn the loss of the great poet, Seamus Heaney, but also want to take a moment to celebrate his spirit and work. I can’t tell you, my brothers and sisters, how many times I have turned to Heaney’s poems in moments of loss and love. Every time I visit the Oregon Coast, I bring Heaney with me.
Join us today in saying hello and goodbye to this poet’s spirit by reading his work out loud. Share it with a friend. Let the world know this: Seamus Heaney was here and meant so much, that poetry grew and was illuminated because of him. -Matthew Dickman


To Mick Joyce in Heaven 

Kit-bag to tool-bag,
Warshirt to workshirt—
Out of your element
Among farmer in-laws,
The way you tied sheaves
The talk of the country,
But out on your own
When skylined on scaffolds—
A demobbed Achilles
Who was never a killer,
The strongest instead
Of the world’s stretcher-bearers,
Turning your hand
To the bricklaying trade.

Prince of the sandpiles,
Hod-hoplite commander
Watching the wall,
Plumbing and pointing
From pegged-out foundation
To first course to cornice,
Keeping an eye
On the eye in the level
Before the cement set:
Medical orderly,
Bedpanner, bandager
Transferred to the home front,
Rising and shining
In brass-buttoned drab.

You spoke of “the forces.”
Had served in the desert,
Been strafed and been saved
By courses of blankets
Fresh-folded and piled
Like bales on a field.
No sandbags that time.
A softness preserved you.
You spoke of sex also,
Talked man to man,
Took me for granted:
The English, you said,
Would do it on Sundays
Upstairs, in the daytime.

The weight of the trowel,
That’s what surprised me.
You’d life its lozenge-shaped
Blade in the air
To sever a brick
In a flash, and then twirl it
Fondly and lightly.
But whenever you sent me
To wash it and dry it
And you had your smoke,
Its iron was heavy,
Its sloped-angle handle
So thick-spanned and daunting
I needed two hands.

“To Mick Joyce in Heaven”—
The title just came to me,
Mick, and I started
If not quite from nowhere,
Then somewhere far off:
A bedroom, bright morning,
A man and a woman,
Their backs to the bedhead
And me at the foot.
It was your first leave,
A stranger arrived
In a house with no upstairs,
But heaven enough
To be going on with.

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Posted in Poetry

Comments: 3

(26) Comments

  1. Thedmo Pink says:

    Sorry Matthew.

  2. Thedmo Pink says:

    Thanks, Rob. I’ve been listening to the voice of the man on the IRISH TIMES website, and youtube. For readers unfamiliar with his Nobel Address, it is…well, here it is.

    Keep up the good work. Keep digging.

(1) Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] adult world on the closed circle of childhood.” The Times references a poem from 2006 called Mick Joyce in Heaven in which Joyce is seen in his “brass buttoned drab” and as a “demobbed […]

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