Monday, 13 April 2015

Day 999: Elegy for a Birthday

Today, the 13th April, is Seamus Heaney's birthday. And in honour of that here is the elegy one of his contemporaries, Paul Durcan, wrote after hearing the news of his death in August 2013.

Breaking News - Paul Durcan

I was driving up the mountain
Through the fuchsia and the sheep -
Horned black faces -
At 11.30 a.m. in the morning
Of the last Friday in August
When, fingers slipping on the dials,
Clambering out to unbolt the six-barred gate,
I switched on the radio accidentally:
'The death has been announced of the poet Seamus
A mist loomed, cloaking each sheep, sheep by sheep,
Shrouding all of the mountain and the western sea.

Inisde the house the first chill of autumn.
I block-built a few firelighters in the grate,
Kindling, peat briquettes,
Struck a FIRESIDE safety match, white flames leaping up,
And down the chimney rustled Seamus's antiphonal
Derry brogue (undiluted by Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford,
    the BBC, Carysfort, RTE, Queen's)
'Are you alright down there, Poet Durcan?'
(That's how he alwas addressed me down thirty-seven
     years -
'Poet Durcan')
'Calm down, I'm only dead, I'm only beginning
The new life, only hours and minutes into it;

I miss my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my
Most of all my mighty spouse - otherwise
I've become the spaceman I've always longed to be -
In flight - breaking the sound barrier out in the
     cosmos -
Which, since boyhood - the American Air Force in our
    fields -
The aerodomes between our hedgerows -
Has always been my dream, my home, my Elysium -
After a lifetime of being neither here nor there -
Of being Kidnapped by Time -
I am out in the cosmos -
Tramping the Milky Way with my father and mother -
Our neighbour Rosie Keenan singing shut-eyed at the
    well -
Tiepolo skies, salmon-pink, white, gold beneath our
    feet -
Never getting above ourselves, what it's all about -
Damascus, Athens, Jerusalem, children -
Don there below us, north-west Europe -
Anahorish, Mossbawn, Bellaghy -
Swarms of midges in veiled autumn evening light -
Anna Rose, Aibhín, Síofra - the other world -
And now I put the key for the first time
Into the door of my father's house.'

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