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Human Chain and Butts on Mullaghmore

06/09/2010 3 comments

In the week that Seamus Heaney’s Human Chain was published,  four of us – me, Joan, Deirdre and Mary – wound our way along the blue waymarked path around Mullaghmore in the Burren.  The heat of the day was blunted by a lively breeze and Mary asked us, Did you hear Seamus Heaney on the radio this morning talking about how he searched his father’s suit pocket for cigarette butts?  He had a way of describing the look and smell of that suit but for the life of me I can’t remember the words he used.  I said I could tell them about it after Sunday since I was going to hear Seamus  read from his new collection at the Abbey Theatre two days later.

Then we followed the red-arrowed path that took us between Mullaghmore and its sister hill Sliabh Rua for a spot of lunch and chat and then down the west side with a fine view of Craggy Island Parochial Hall – Father Ted’s House – and back to Corofin and a drink in Bofey Quinn’s where a girl paraded in a blood-red bridesmaid dress.

The sun had deserted Dublin by late Sunday afternoon and drenched hurling supporters waited at the Luas stop beside the Abbey – the Tipperary fans the happier after dethroning the Cats – and I met up with my friend, Heather, and soon I had a signed copy of Human Chain in my hands. There it was, the description of  the blue serge suit in the poem,  ‘The Butts’, and that smell: stale smoke and oxter-sweat/came at you in a stirred-up brew/when you reached in.

The poet ranged over and back between old poems and new ones  ‘written in sudden swoops’ and in a nice symmetry ended with an earlier piece  ‘Postcript’ that is set in The Burren: And some time make the time to drive out west/Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore/In September or October, when the wind/And the light are working off each other …

We headed back in a grey night drizzle, caught up in the Kilkenny and Premier County traffic after the hurling heroics. I knew the summer days were over.