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Between my finger and my thumb


The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound


When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:


My father, digging.

I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds


Bends low, comes up twenty years away


Stooping in rhythm through potato drills


Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft


Against the inside knee was levered firmly.


He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep


To scatter new potatoes that we picked,


Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.


Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day


Than any other man on Toner’s bog.


Once I carried him milk in a bottle


Corked sloppily with paper.

He straightened up


To drink it, then fell to right away


Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods


Over his shoulder, going down and down


For the good turf.

Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap


Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge


Through living roots awaken in my head.


But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb


The squat pen rests.


I’ll dig with it.

benny

(Note: Today is the first anniversary of his death. May he rest in peace.) 

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