All significant truths are private truths. As they become public, they cease to be truth; they become facts, or at best, part of the public character; or at worst catchwords.
Thursday, 22 September 2011
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.
This poem is one from a series of short poems called "Clearances" written by Seamus Heaney in memory of his mother, Mary Heaney, and it conveys the way that doing things together and just being with others can bring us closer than anything else can. I also think this is a very spiritual poem, even though it is not very reverential about organised religion - the description of the priest who goes "hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying" is not particularly complimentary. The poem begins with Heaney and his mother having skipped mass in favour of some potato peeling, and yet their work is like a ritual and a communion between them, a wordless moment of grace - although that sounds rather pretentious when this is a poem that is so totally prosaic.
I don't know if you often find most meaning in prosaic things - in everyday moments of peace or joy, or in the simple ordinary doing of mundane things that can forge a connection with others.