Seamus Heaney takes me down memory lane


Yesterday I learned that poet Seamus Heaney died, and I immediately fell into an Alice and Wonderland spiral of emotions. I spent the next few hours reading, and re-reading some of my favorite Heaney poems, which led to white-rabbit trails of reading all the other poets I’ve read over the years. It went like this: Seamus Heaney

Sharon Olds.

Rita Dove.
Gary Snyder.

Raymond Carver Tess Gallagher.

And Dan Peters. My high school English teacher. I took two years of classes with him, and attribute his inspiring teaching style to both my own love of English, decision to be an English Major, and own current teaching style. If I could only be half as good a teacher as him, I would have accomplished something great.

This gut punching trip down memory lane has left me with so many emotions that I can barely even begin to talk about them. There’s the surface level, of how I feel like I’m waking up from a social media fog and realizing that poems are much truer than Facebook statuses. Because when I sat, and read, even the online versions, there was this gut-level aha that I felt in ways I haven’t felt before. Which brings me to all these feelings about who I am vs. who, at the tender age of 16, I thought I would now be. There’s this mama-brain fogginess that seems to be letting up now that I’m getting more than 2 hours of sleep in a row (still need to work on the quality of the sleep, though…). I have this drive and desire to dive back into things I used to love, like good literature, and discussing good teaching strategies, and ¬†figuring out exactly how I can build relationships with my students that encourage them toward more personal growth and responsibility.

I miss reading poetry. I miss writing poetry. I miss speaking poetry aloud. I miss hearing poetry read aloud.

I also miss the person I used to be.

Mid-Term Break
by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o’clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying?
He had always taken funerals in his stride?
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble”,
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

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