31 August 2013

Reading Heaney's "Nerthus"

for S. Ben-Tov

Afternoon sun of Ohio's August
daubs the classroom with early rust.

Eight of us bristle, apprenticed
to nail the world to its sentence.

Poet's poet, our teacher hands us
a copy each of Heaney's 'Nerthus'.

A chill creeps in me as she reads.
From Heaney-soil, that concrete dark,

an unseen ash-fork staked in bog:
my first portents of winter north.

*

We have all heard the name
but not Heaney's Great Chain of Verbs.

We stall. And do not fathom
the quiet mesh of kesh and loaning

that lull and push of middle-voice
that verb say

the long-grained never static
of the poem's non-finite aesthetic
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© 2005, Rustum Kozain
From: This Carting Life
Publisher: Kwela/Snailpress, Cape Town, 2005
ISBN: 9780795701986
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Rustum Kozain
(Photo by Blackboy Photography)

2 comments:

Kathleen Jones said...

Really like this - as a Heaney fan - particularly the reference to his verbs. There's always the revelation of the exactly right, but astonishing, word.

Rethabile said...

Glad you like this poem, Kathleen, by a splendid poet. Thanks...