Monday, March 17, 2014

and catch the heart off guard


by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Just this thought this morning, that the following would make a good writing prompt:

write a poem that begins "And some time make the time" and ends "And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

Where would you be, where would you drive?

The reminder that you must make the time, open yourself up to the possibility, put yourself in the way of such joy. It won't necessarily come to you. You may have to hop in your car, drive out west. Or take a long walk. You may have to travel quite a distance in your mind.

And sometimes it's in the timing, too. In the poem, it's September or October, "when the wind
And the light are working off each other." 

This is what it's like, too, in the writing of poems. You might need to remember when the weather is just so, and then you have to work to get to a particular place, you have to be attune to the climate, to the presence of swans, the light of them, and be open to being both here and there and nowhere, which is also a place. When you get there, you know that nothing might transpire, and then if it does you might be quite useless to capture any of it. 

And these are yet the carnations from last week. Flowers, because here, it's still a really long time away from spring. A long way from the snow melting, and the ground unfreezing. A long way from green, from colours, from spring.


  1. Carnations will more than do in the outside absence of green. Lovely thoughts today, Shawna.

  2. what a fabulous proposition!
    i know where i would be. and oddly enough... though i am an autumn lover and all things autumnal... the mist. the color. the melancholy that is only beauty to me...
    i would be on a crystal white beach. playing all by myself with the small turquoise waves coming in. kicking back at them. running with them. splashing. remembering. and losing all memory at the same time.
    in my beautiful. total. childlike abandon.
    that's where my heart would be caught off guard and blown right open.
    in my mind i go there often.
    in reality i would again have to take two planes and a ferry and a taxi to get there.
    she said with a wistful smile.


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