Seamus Heaney – Limbo

After hearing of the death of poet Seamus Heaney last week, I looked back over some of his poems that I studied for A Level English Literature. I couldn’t remember the name of one particular poem, but I knew what I was looking for, as its haunting subject matter and tragically beautiful composition had stayed with me for many years.

Limbo

Fishermen at Ballyshannon
Netted an infant last night
Along with the salmon.
An illegitimate spawning,

A small one thrown back
To the waters. But I’m sure
As she stood in the shallows
Ducking him tenderly

Till the frozen knobs of her wrists
Were dead as the gravel,
He was a minnow with hooks
Tearing her open.

She waded in under
The sign of the cross.
He was hauled in with the fish.
Now limbo will be

A cold glitter of souls
Through some far briny zone.
Even Christ’s palms, unhealed,
Smart and cannot fish there.

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