by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
It's raining on black coal and warm, wet ashes
There are tyre-marks in the yard,
Agnew's old lorry
Has all its cribs down and Agnew the coalman
With his Belfast accent's sweet-talking my mother.
Would she go to a film in Magherafelt?
But it's raining and he still has half his load
To deliver farther on. This time the lode
Our coal came from was silk-black, so the ashes
Will be the silkiest-white. The Magherafelt
(Via Toomebridge) bus goes by. The half-stripped lorry
With its emptied, folded coal-bags moves my mother:
The tasty ways of a leather-aproned coalman!
And films no less! The conceit of a coalman...
She goes back in and gets out the black lead
And emery paper, this nineteen-forties mother,
All business round her stove, half-wiping ashes
With a backhand from her cheek as the bolted lorry
Gets revved and turned and heads for Magherafelt
And the last delivery. Oh Magherafelt!
Oh, dream of red plush and a city coalman
As time fastforwards and a different lorry
Groans into shot up Broad Street, with a payload
That will blow the bus station to dust and ashes...
After that happened, I'd a vision of my mother,
A revenant on the bench where I would meet her
In that cold-floored waiting-room in Magherafelt,
Her shopping bags full up with shovelled ashes.
Death walked out past her like a dust-faced coalman
Re-folding body-bags, plying his load
Empty upon empty, in a flurry
Of motes and engine-revs, but which lorry
Was it now? Young Agnew's or that other,
Heavier, deadly one set to explode
In a time beyond her time in Magherafelt...
So tally-bags and sweet-talk darkness, coalman.
Listen to the rain spit in new ashes
As you heft a load of dust that was Magherafelt,
Then reappear from your lorry as my mother's
Dreamboat coalman filmed in silk-white ashes.
Published by Robin
I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.
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