Use the tools best fit for you

Seamus Heaney, one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century and one in a line of wonderful, broadly audacious writers to come from Ireland, passed away on Friday.

Bobbie, who shared a few drinks with him 20-plus years ago, and I raised a small glass of Paddy’s to him last night, and we read a poem of his, “Remember Malibu”, given its geographic closeness to us.

The following poem, an early one, is generally recognized as his rumination on working with the tools best fit for him and in many ways set forth how he’d approach his life — via his art.

It seems a fitting reminder of one of yoga’s lessons: harnessing your best attributes in order to extend yourself outward/inward/further. WordPress won’t get the formatting correct, so also check here:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.


Posted by Steve