“All I know is a door into the dark”: 2 Poems by Seamus Heaney

A young Seamus Heaney recalls a blacksmith from his boyhood, while a much older Seamus Heaney illustrates the sometimes excessive power of retributive force (he says he was inspired by the U. S. military response to 9/11) by the swinging of a sledgehammer.  


The Forge

All I know is a door into the dark,
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immoveable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and a flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.


A Shiver

The way you had to stand to swing the sledge,
Your two knees locked, your lower back shock-fast
As shields in a testudo, spine and waist
A pivot for the tight-braced, tilting rib-cage;
The way its iron head planted the sledge
Unyieldingly as a club-footed last;
The way you had to heft and then half-rest
Its gathered force like a long-nursed rage
About to be let fly: does it do you good
To have known it in your bones, directable,
Withholdable at will,
A first blow that could make air of a wall,
A last one so unanswerably landed
The staked earth quailed and shivered in the handle?


5 replies »

  1. These are so fine, so immediate. I only wish we would start submitting to trade pubs and places other than poetry magazines. These might have appeared with great interest in ‘Anvil and Forge’, or ‘Blue Moon Press’, pubs such as those that rarely include poetry in their pages, Sailing mags, farm equipment catalogs, weaving and even pet mags – how much their readers might relate to first-class poems of immediate interest to themselves. How much bigger our markets might be if only we looked beyond our stages and poem books ( to audiences that would be the toughest critics of all, who know our subjects better than we do. )

    Liked by 2 people

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