Seamus Heaney

Sandstone Keepsake

It is a kind of chalky russet
solidified gourd, sedimentary
and so reliably dense and bricky
I often clasp it and throw it from hand to hand.
It was ruddier, with an underwater
hint of contusion, when I lifted it,
wading a shingle beach on Inishowen.
Across the estuary light after light
came on silently round the perimeter
of the camp. A stone from Phlegethon,
bloodied on the bed of hell’s hot river?
Evening frost and the salt water
made my hand smoke, as if I’d plucked the heart
that damned Guy de Montfort to the boiling flood –
but not really, though I remembered
his victim’s heart in its casket, long venerated.
Anyhow, there I was with the wet red stone
in my hand, staring across at the watch-towers
from my free state of image and allusion,
swooped on, then dropped by trained binoculars:
a silhouette not worth bothering about,
out for the evening in scarf and waders
and not about to set times wrong or right,
stooping along, one of the venerators.