In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984
© Seamus Heaney
- When all the others were away at Mass
- I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
- They broke the silence, let fall one by one
- Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
- Cold comforts set between us, things to share
- Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
- And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
- From each other's work would bring us to our senses.
- So while the parish priest at her bedside
- Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
- And some were responding and some crying
- I remembered her head bent towards my head,
- Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –
- Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
- The cool that came off the sheets just off the line
- Made me think the damp must still be in them
- But when I took my corners of the linen
- And pulled against her, first straight down the hem
- And then diagonally, then flapped and shook
- The fabric like a sail in a cross-wind,
- They made a dried-out undulating thwack.
- So we'd stretch and fold and end up hand to hand
- For a split second as if nothing had happened
- For nothing had that had not always happened
- Beforehand, day by day, just touch and go,
- Coming close again by holding back
- In moves where I was x and she was o
- Inscribed in sheets she'd sewn from ripped-out flour sacks.