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‘They just keep turning up

And were thought of as foreign’-

One-eyed and benign,

They lie about his house,

Quernstones out of a bog.

To lift the lid of the peat

And find this pupil dreaming

Of neolithic wheat!

When he stripped off blanket bog

The soft-piled centuries

Fell open like a glib;

There were the first plough-marks,

The stone-age fields, the tomb

Corbelled, turfed and chambered,

Floored with dry turf-coomb.

A landscape fossilized,

Its stone wall patternings

Repeated before our eyes

In the stone walls of Mayo.

Before I turned to go

He talked about persistence,

A congruence of lives,

How stubbed and cleared of stones,

His home accrued growth rings

Of iron, flint and bronze.

So I talked of Mossbawn,

A bogland name ‘but Moss’?,

He crossed my old home’s music

With older strains of Norse.

I’d told how its foundation

Was mutable as sound

And how I could derive

A forked root from that ground,

Make bawn an English fort,

A planter’s walled-in mound.

Or else find sanctuary

And think of it as Irish,

Persistent if outworn.

‘But the Norse ring on your tree?’

I passed through the eye of the quern,

Grist to an ancient mill,

And in my mind’s eye saw,

A world-tree of balanced stones,

Querns piles like vertebrae,

The marrow crushed to grounds.


Seamas Heaney

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