Seamus Heaney

The Backward Look

A stagger in the air  
as if a language  
failed, a sleight 
of wing.

A snipe’s bleat is fleeting  
its nesting ground 
into dialect, 
into variants,

transliterations whirr 
on the nature reserves—  
little goat of the air, 
of the evening,

little goat of the frost.  
It is his tail feathers 
drumming elegies 
in the slipstream

of wild goose 
and yellow bittern 
as he corkscrews away 
into the vaults

that we live off, his flight  
through the sniper’s eyrie  
over twilit earthworks  
and wallsteads,

disappearing among  
gleanings and leavings 
in the combs 
of a fieldworker’s archive.