“Follower” by Seamus Heaney

Among other things, I am reading Ireland in Poetry, edited by Charles Sullivan. Most of it is flying right by me. There are two poems about Constance Markievicz (here’s a BBC profile) that introduced her to me. Every once in a while I run across these great stories of women from the early 20th century, suffragettes all, who totally blow my mind with their courage of conviction.

But I want to record this poem, which so far is the only one really sticking with me. It has made me pause many a night.

Follower
By Seamus Heaney

My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horses strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

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