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April 2, 2020. From "Clearances," In Memoriam M.K.M.

This sonnet, which recalls a morning shared between the young author and his mother, peeling potatoes, topped an RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Broadcaster) poll to identify the best loved Irish poem of the past century. Imagine that. A TV poll to honor a nation's poetry.


When all the others were away at Mass


(from "Clearances," in memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984) by 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.

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