Seamus Heaney, The Loss of an Idol

Last Friday saw the death of beloved Irish writer Seamus Heaney. He was one of my favourite writers, his words inspired me when not much else did in my teen years and made me want to write. His poems evoke in me, memories of my own childhood here Ireland, our unique landscape and history, the beauty of this island. So, on this, the day of his burial, I wanted to share one of his poems. It’s very apt considering the theme and the season and one of my favourites.

Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

Thank you for all the wonderful reads, you will be sorely missed.

Rest In Peace

0 thoughts on “Seamus Heaney, The Loss of an Idol”

  1. Blackberry Eating

    I love to go out in late September
    among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
    to eat blackberries for breakfast,
    the stalks very prickly, a penalty
    they earn for knowing the black art
    of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
    lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
    fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
    as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
    like strengths or squinched,
    many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
    which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
    in the silent, startled, icy, black language
    of blackberry — eating in late September.
    Galway Kinnell

  2. A hard loss indeed. As a former literature teacher I used to teach Heaney. As a grower, you should check out “The Early Purges,” with the understanding that you’re not to take things at face value.

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