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10 NOVEMBER 2016

Today, my duty as a poet-citizen is to memorize this immediately necessary poem (excerpt), to learn it by heart. I will do so.

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

(excerpt above re-typed here by me, poet Therese L. Broderick, reproduced from my own copy of the anthology POEMS TO LIVE BY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES (Beacon Press, 2001), edited by Joan Murray. If anyone reading this post would like to have a complimentary copy of that anthology, I will purchase and send you one.)

About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

One response »

  1. Thank you. The final lines served to remind me of Martin Luther King, Jr., saying “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” America has just swerved in the other direction. But I am not ready to believe this changes the universe’s whole moral arc.


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