The Clay Pipes


You won't be the one to turn away when death
rolls in towards you like the ocean.
You will hold to your steadfast gaze,
as it comes tiding in, all plash and glitter
from the rim of eternity.
You will keep your head.
You will come to your senses again as it
foams over the ridged beaches of your brain
and you will take it all in
and know it completely:
you will be a child again, out on the strand
at Magheraroarty, your body
abandoned altogether
to the lift of the Atlantic.
But before you went the whole way then away
into nothingness, you would touch the bottom.
And this will be what happens to you here:
you'll go through a black hole of initiation,
then reach the land of the living;
but the seal of the brine will be on you forever
and you'll have depth as a person:
you'll walk from danger of death into the truth.

Here is the best image I can find:
you are like the forest people of Columbia
I read about in the library,
a tribe who smoke clay pipes, coloured pipes
that used to have to be made from this one thing:
basketfuls of clay
scooped out in fatal danger
in enemy country, in a scaresome place
full of traps and guards and poisoned arrows.
According to this article, they believe
that the only fully perfect pipes
are ones made out of the clay
collected under such extreme conditions.


                        Irish; trans. Seamus Heaney


Cathal O Searcaigh, Irish, trans. Seamus Heaney, Homecoming/An Bealach 'na Bhaile, Clo Iar-Chonnachta Teo, 1993.