Death of a Naturalist

The obits fill the papers for a week. Heaney
is Dead. Disinherited – we dumbly stare,
as if a shaded bulb had failed at the far end of a passage.
It’s Dover Beach and  anarchy is briefly born –
to mix it with the metaphors and references.
We all share touches from the man we never knew
but may have met – a moment on the damascene
when his Irish voice speaks calmly from the fire.

So here is mine. With Digging firmly in our thoughts,
it came as a surprise  he crossed the Irish Sea
to Birkenhead with no pen in his bag.
His reading done, we faithfully produced our copies
to be signed. Deficient of a book, I had
the pen the time required. Now dry, it nestles
in its drawer. It’s 40 years since it was called
to rescue a poet with no pen – a man
with confidence that nothing on that day be needed
to be writ down. So, Parker Vector Rollerball,
you took the place of spade, and left his mark
upon two dozen pages. I would have happily
allowed him pocket it and disappear.
An honest Ulsterman, he gave it back again.

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