James Brohan’s painting of Seamus Heaney
I dreamed and, dreaming, thought myself awake –
I had gone to the old place we sometimes reach in sleep.
The moon rode out, imperious and cold,
dragging dark airs behind her in her train,
one hand on her hip, reins gathered to the pommel,
her eyes twin voids of fathomless, glinting night.
Torc of bare bone, scimitar, flesher’s blade.
Across the plain the city slept, gone quiet,
the fires doused, the watchmen half-awake.
The good man lay in his room, propped on high pillows,
his mind moving on love, the surgeon’s knife.
A soft disquiet inside the palisade...
It was the wind woke me, branch tapping glass; I rose,
batting the dream away, that slack entanglement.
Night was near done, a crescent moon rode low
in a black sky of stars, landing lights winking in
low to the north of Howth Head. Summer was over,
no more sleeping under an open window.
The wind ruffled the grasses, swayed in the hedge.
A light came on across the way. I thought:
that can’t be good, news that comes in the dark.
Sparking the neural networks of the world...
I dozed, and woke again to an urgent knock, to this:
an electric gale sweeping the island, north to south,
so many lifted into a sudden storm of grief,
swept up, borne on, out into the pitiless shock of day.
for SH (1939-2013)
Theo Dorgan’s recent collection, Nine Bright Shiners (Dedalus Press ) won this year’s Irish Times Poetry Now Award. This poem marks the second aniversary of Seamus Heaney’s death on August 30th, 2013