Saturday Poem: Miracle by Seamus Heaney

In Poetry on June 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

If ever Yeats’ admonition to cast a cold eye on life, on death, was obeyed, then the series of essays the late Christopher Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair after the diagnosis of his cancer, is its most admirable literary exemplar. The first of this series of meditations, describes his “deportation from the domicile of the well to the land of malady”.

Today a poem about the kind sentries who man this boundary between the two lands and offer the first welcome upon ones resettlement into the land of the sick. I should say here that I’ve thought often about this poem, having been ill and in-and-out-and-back-in to the hospital several times over the past year. Unlike Hitchens, however, my illness is not of much consequence to the rest of the world, and more importantly, hardly as dangerous for me or my loved ones. However, a protracted encounter with paramedics, nurses, medical technicians does fill me with enormous respect for them. There is no dearth of expressions of admiration for doctors or for the forbearance shown by brave family members, but what of the nurses and the hospital staff who, forever as the supporting cast in all the drama of suffering and/or recovery, carry on most unselfishly? Whether in the delirium of an unusually resilient fever and hostage to a potentially-deadly infection or half-crippled with anesthesia, their lifting me to lower me for healing, dressing my wounds, changing my clothes or offering to bathe and cleanse me, were no minor benefactions. For the sick, this familiarity, this “having known him all along” is the first touch of healing.

Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –

Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up

Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
and raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those who had known him all along.

  1. Ah, Heaney can put words one after the other with more ease than some of us can pace out the rooms of our own houses.

    Marie Marshall

    • Indeed! Well said. Such beautiful words too, he strings together …
      Thank you for stopping by.

  2. You’ve been MIA / AWOL. And i wondered if you were just plain and simple busy. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been ill and that it hasn’t been easy. I’ve missed you and your wit. I hope you’re recovering well. Sending you love, light and healing vibes. Hugs and take care!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: