When all the others were away at Mass by Seamus Heaney
When all the others were away at Mass by Seamus Heaney has been named Ireland’s best-loved poem from the past century. It was chosen from ballots cast by the public, and announced by Irish President Michael D. Higgins. The third of eight sonnets in “Clearances,” a series dedicated to the poet’s mother, Margaret Kathleen McCann, the poem is featured in the recently publishedSelected Poems 1966–1987, one of two new editions of Heaney’s work that were arranged by the Nobel laureate himself.
When all the others were away at Mass I was all hers as we peeled potatoes. They broke the silence, let fall one by one Like solder weeping off the soldering iron: Cold comforts set between us, things to share Gleaming in a bucket of clean water. And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying And some were responding and some crying I remembered her head bent towards my head, Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives – Never closer the whole rest of our lives.