From ‘Eelworks’, by Seamus Heaney

28 August 2013

Cut of diesel oil in evening air,
Tractor engines in the clinker-built
Deep-bellied boats,

Landlubbers’ craft,
Heavy in water
As a cow down in a drain,

The men straight-backed,
Standing firm
At stern and bow –

Horse-and-cart men, really,
Glad when the adze-dressed keel
Cleaved to the mud.

Rum-and-peppermint men too
At the counter later on
In her father’s pub.


After reading quite a few works that are strident or sassy lately, dipping into Heaney and finding this was fantastically refreshing. The cow is one of those similes that sometimes make a whole poem.

[Read in Human Chain, published by Faber & Faber.]


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