I visited Heaney’s grave with my friend last week. First, we went to The Homeplace, the arts centre in Bellaghy that celebrates his poetry. I’d been before and I love it. Loved seeing how a poem moves through multiple iterations of scoring and scribbles and shifting around before he gets to something he’s happy with. Loved seeing his old duffle coat hanging in a glass cabinet – hadn’t known it was made from suede, must have weighed a tonne, taken ages to dry when he got caught out in a downpour. Loved all those photographs of people and places and items he had written about. Loved the ice-cream I had as I wandered down the street towards St. Mary’s to stand by his plot. Loved how few people were about on a Monday evening in the middle of summer and the drivers that lifted a palm from the wheel to acknowledge the strangers. Loved how unremarkable it all was, this wee place in mid-Ulster that you would never have imagined had so much to say for itself, or that someone had so much to say about it. Loved the slow of pace of everything and how I got stuck behind a herd of crossing cattle on my way home. Loved that it moved me to write a poem about it all.
At Rest St Mary’s Graveyard, Bellaghy Under a tree, cast apart from other plots – though close enough to hear and see who’s coming up the gravel walk – we fall silent for prayer. In that moment a truck’s horn sounds, blasting loud and long, roping through hawthorn hedges, ivy, privet, thrumming his headstone, seeping into sycamore leaves until that urgent, given note falls silent, and the sky expands, the air vibrates with life wrapped in death wrapped in life, layers of pass-the-parcel every hand will someday touch to mute our words and voices– but not his. Evening sun shines and bees and butterflies alight on sagging blooms of late-spent summer buddleia. Cows stop me at Lislea. I cut the engine, watch them shuffle off for milking. I feel at rest on close of day.