Seamus Heaney, Tinder

We picked flints,
Pale and dirt-veined,
So small finger and thumb
Ached around them;
Cold beads of history and home
We fingered, a cave-mouth flame
Of leaf and stick
Trembling at the mind’s wick.
We clicked stone on stone
That sparked a weak flame-pollen
And failed, our knuckle joints
Striking as often as the flints.
What did we know then
Of tinder, charred linen and iron,
Huddled at dusk in a ring,
Our fists shut, our hope shrunken?
What could strike a blaze
From our dead igneous days?
Now we squat on cold cinder,
Red-eyed, after the flames’ soft thunder
And our thoughts settle like ash.
We face the tundra’s whistling brush
With new history, flint and iron,
Cast-offs, scraps, nail, canine.

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Seamus Heaney, Tinder

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