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The Ash Plant, By SEAMUS HEANEY

February 09, 1992

He'll never rise again but he is ready.

Entered like a mirror by the morning,

He stares out the big window, wondering,

Not caring if the day is bright or cloudy.

An upstairs outlook on the whole country.

First milk-lorries, first smoke, cattle, trees

In damp opulence above damp hedges--

He has it to himself, he is like a sentry

Forgotten and unable to remember

The whys and wherefores of his lofty station,

Wakening relieved yet in position,

Disencumbered as a breaking comber.

As his head goes light with light,

his wasting hand

Gropes desperately and finds the phantom limb

Of an ash plant in his grasp, which steadies him.

Now he has found his touch he can stand

his ground

Or wield the stick like a silver bough and come

Walking again among us: the quoted judge.

I could have cut a better man out of the hedge!

God might have said the same,

remembering Adam.

From "Seeing Things" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $19; 107 pp.). Heaney is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and has been the recipient of many honors and awards for his poetry, including the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. 1991 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted by permission.

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