You are here

The Wood Road

Seamus Heaney

Resurfaced, never widened.

The verges grassy as when

Bill Pickering lay with his gun

Under the summer hedge

Nightwatching, in uniform –


Special militiaman.


Moonlight on rifle barrels,

On the windscreen of a van

Roadblocking the road,

The rest of his patrol

Sentry-still, in profile,


Guarding Mulhollandstown.


Or me in broad daylight

On top of a cartload

Of turf hand-built and squat

As a drystone beehive hut,

Looked up to, looking down,


Allowed the reins like an adult –


In the picture at last,

The one on the whitewashed wall

Of a horse and cart and turfman

Embroidered on calico

In what they called ‘the long ago’,


Framed in passe-par-tout.


Or that August day I walked it

To the hunger striker’s wake,

Across a silent yard,

In past a watching crowd

To where the guarded corpse


And a guard of honour stared.


Film it in sepia,

Drip-paint it in blood,

This was/is the Wood Road.

Resurfaced, never widened,

The milk-can deck and the sign


For the bus-stop overgrown.

From Magma No. 36, Winter 2006

Seamus Heaney was born in County Derry in Northern Ireland. District and Circle (Faber) was his 12th collection of poems. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995.