Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney died today. I've been asked, a couple of times, why my blog address is diggingpotatoes.

This is why.


By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.


When you take the best thing that's ever happened to you,
Something you really fought to hold.
And you roll it up like yesterday's newspaper, and then scrunch it,
Maybe toss it around a little, as if you were playing with a tennis ball,
And then you throw it aside.
And forget about it for half a second.
And then step on it.
And then you stare at it, for a moment
Not quite sure what you're seeing.
And then you see it. Really see it.
So you pick it up and frantically lay it on a table.
And spread it out, trying to smoothen the creases.
Hands trembling, unable to believe what they did.
And you desperately hope it's been saved, that it's not a lost cause
But you start to realize you'll never get it back.

And then, with a surge, it goes out with the tide.
And you realize it, wholly. 


The last time I cried.

When was the last time you cried?

A few weeks ago, I was not quite dead to the world at 6 am. Very strange, because I'm usually dead to the world at 6 am.

My mind was still groggy though as I lay huddled under my bed cover.

Why am I awake, thought my mind. There's no irritating joyful sunlight pouring in, the room is dim and cold, my bed is warm, I'm terribly sleepy, and I should be asleep, and I'm usually asleep when I should be, so why am I awake?

And then, slowly, as my mind began to stretch itself, it became aware of a slight pressure on my butt. I was lying on my stomach, my head turned to one side, mouth pressed up against my pillow, and as the seconds ticked by, I realized that there was definitely something on my butt.

I turned my head, my vision blurry because I didn't have my glasses on.

And what I saw was the stuff my blackest nightmares have been made of.

I could make out a small shadowy figure perched on my bottom. A bird shaped figure. A bird.

There's a bird on your butt, there's a bird on your butt, there's a bird on your butt, said my mind.

I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! Said I. Or my mind. Which is the same thing, unless - okay, I'm venturing into dangerous territory here. Back to the problem at hand.


I let out a piercing shriek and rolled off the bed, knocking over my lamp, pulling my sheets with me. I heard a squawk and the dreaded sound of the flapping of wings and I pulled my sheet tighter over my head. After a while, there was silence.

But I knew it hadn't gone. I sensed its presence. I knew my enemy was lurking close by.

I peeped cautiously over the edge of my sheet. I was right. I could see movement by my door.

By my door. That meant I couldn't make a run for it. (Not that I would have, really, I was too terrified to move, but oh well.)

So I yelled. I screamed. I shouted. I bawled.

Nothing. Nada. An axe murderer could have been in there with me, hacking me to pieces, and none of my household would have known.

Finally, I reached a trembling hand across for my phone. Found it. Called the landline.

"Hellooooo," said a high pitched, sleepy, extremely annoying voice at the other end.

"SUMITRA!" I whispered furiously. "Ekhane esho. Please."

"Keno?" She said, beautifully unconcerned.

"Pakhi!" I couldn't even form a sentence, I was that freaked out.



I heard a rustling noise and, flinging the phone away, pulled the sheet over my head again.

I heard slow, measured footsteps, and the door slide open. I heard the bird flap, I heard Sumitra say, "AI!" and then I saw them both, woman and bird, moving in a blur past my bed, towards the window.

Without a word, I leapt up from the floor and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind me. I enclosed myself in the study for two hours, and updated a facebook status about the entire incident because obviously that is what you do.

Sumitra came in a few times, laughing, making light of my fear. When Bouchi and Sabir came in, she told them the story and even though I couldn't hear clearly, the gale of laughter that floated out from the kitchen, made me burn with resentment.

People discriminate so much, man. It's okay to be afraid of rats, or lizards, or robbers, but a bird - oh no, the entire thing is suddenly comical.

Anyway, my mother came down and was predictably unsympathetic about what happened.

"Go for a shower, Trisha." She said, later in the morning.



I went. I went to my room - all clear - and then laughing at myself now that the fear had passed, I opened the door to the bathroom.

A bird flew at me.

There's only so much human beings are programmed to take, folks.

That's when I last cried.

Damn birds.