Seamus Heaney, Weighing in

The 56 lb. weight. A solid iron
Unit of negation. Stamped and cast
With an inset, rung-thick, moulded, short crossbar

For a handle. Squared-off and harmless-looking
Until you tried to lift it, then a socket-ripping,
Life-belittling force –

Gravity’s black box, the immovable
Stamp and squat and square-root of dead weight.
Yet balance it

Against another one placed on a weighbridge –
On a well-adjusted, freshly greased weighbridge –
And everything trembled, flowed with give and take.

And this is all the good tidings amount to:
This principle of bearing, bearing up
And bearing out, just having to

Balance the intolerable in others
Against our own, having to abide
Whatever we settled for and settled into

Against our better judgement. Passive
Suffering makes the world go round.
Peace on earth, men of good will, all that

Holds good only as long as the balance holds,
The scales ride steady and the angels’ strain
Prolongs itself at an unearthly pitch.
To refuse the other cheek. To cast the stone.
Not to do so some time, not to break with
The obedient one you hurt yourself into
Is to fail the hurt, the self, the ingrown rule.
Prophesy who struck thee! When soldiers mocked
Blindfolded Jesus and he didn’t strike back
They were neither shamed nor edified, although
Something was made manifest – the power
Of power not exercised, of hope inferred

By the powerless forever. Still, for Jesus’ sake,
Do me a favour, would you, just this once?
Prophesy, give scandal, cast the stone.

Two sides to every question, yes, yes, yes …
But every now and then, just weighing in
Is what it must come down to, and without

Any self-exculpation or self-pity.
Alas, one night when follow-through was called for
And a quick hit would have fairly rankled,

You countered that it was my narrowness
That kept me keen, so got a first submission.
I held back when I should have drawn blood
And that way (mea culpa) lost an edge.
A deep mistaken chivalry, old friend.
At this stage only foul play cleans the slate.

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Seamus Heaney, Weighing in

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