“The Backward Look” by Seamus Heaney

A stagger in the air
as if a language
failed, a sleight
of wing.

A snipe’s bleat is fleeting
its nesting ground
into dialect,
into variants,

transliterations whirr
on the nature reserves–
little goat of the air,
of the evening

little goat of the frost.
It is his tail feathers
drumming elegies
in the slipstream

of wild goose
and  yellow bittern
as he corkscrews away
into the vaults

that we live off, his flight
through the sniper’s eyrie
over twilit earthworks
and wallsteads,

disappearing among
gleanings and leavings
in the combs
of a fieldworker’s archive.

Seamus Heaney
Opened Ground (1996)



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