from Album

Were I to have embraced him anywhere
It would have been on the riverbank
That summer before college, him in his prime,

Me at the time not thinking how he must
Keep coming with me because I’d soon be leaving.
That should have been the first time, but it didn’t happen.

The second time did, at New Ferry one night
When he was very drunk and needed help
To do up trouser buttons. And the third

Was on the landing during his last week,
Helping him to the bathroom, my right arm
Taking the webby weight of his underarm.


It took a grandson to do it properly,
To rush him in the armchair
With a snatch raid on his neck,

Proving him thus vulnerable to delight,
Coming as great proofs often come
Of a sudden, one-off, then the steady dawning

Of whatever erat demonstrandum.
Just as the moment back a son’s three tries
At an embrace in Elysium

Swam up into my very arms, and in and out
Of the Latin stem itself, the phantom
Verus that has lipped from ‘very’.

Seamus Heaney


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