Sand-bed, they said.  And gravel-bed.  BeforeI knew river shallows or river pleasuresI knew the ore of longing in those words.
The places I go back to have not failedBut will not last.  Waist-deep in cow-parsley,I re-enter the swim, riding or quelling
The very currents memory is composed of,Everything accumulated everAs I took squarings from the tops of bridges
Or the banks of self at evening.Lick of fear.  Sweet transience.  Flirt and splash.Crumpled flow the sky-dipped willows trailed in.

—Seamus Heaney, section xli from “Squarings” in Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998)
Painting: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Willows Beside a Stream, 1805

Sand-bed, they said.  And gravel-bed.  Before
I knew river shallows or river pleasures
I knew the ore of longing in those words.

The places I go back to have not failed
But will not last.  Waist-deep in cow-parsley,
I re-enter the swim, riding or quelling

The very currents memory is composed of,
Everything accumulated ever
As I took squarings from the tops of bridges

Or the banks of self at evening.
Lick of fear.  Sweet transience.  Flirt and splash.
Crumpled flow the sky-dipped willows trailed in.

—Seamus Heaney, section xli from “Squarings” in Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998)

Painting: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Willows Beside a Stream, 1805

Notes

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