Poem: The SkylightAugust 7, 2006
You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.
But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.
Ordinarily I’m not a fan of Heaney’s work, but the one above took my breath away when I first saw it about three years ago as a college student. Back then I still had lofty ideals about poetry, its importance, its uses and abuses. Now, stripped of those highflown and highfalutin ideals, the poem touches the heart. I could expound on its sonnet structure, on the intelligent octave-sestet transition, of the gentle, lulling rhythm, of how apt the Biblical allusion is.
But instead I’m keeping quiet and appreciating how sweet it is as a portrayal of quotidian household love.