Seamus Heaney


The sandmartins’ nests were loopholes of darkness in the riv-
erbank. He could imagine his arm going in to the armpit,
sleeved and straitened, but because he had once felt the cold
prick of a dead robin’s claw and the surprising density of its tiny
beak he only gazed.
        He heard cheeping far in but because the men had once
shown him a rat’s nest in the butt of a stack where chaff and
powdered cornstalks adhered to the moist pink necks and backs
he only listened.
        As he stood sentry, gazing, waiting, he thought of putting
his ear to one of the abandoned holes and listening for the
silence under the ground.