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(April 13,1939 - August 30, 2013 / Castledàwson, County Londonderry)

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Bogland

for T. P. Flanagan

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening--
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encrouching horizon,

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

They've taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They'll never dig coal here,

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

Every layer they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Submitted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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Comments about this poem (From The Frontier Of Writing by Seamus Heaney )

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  • Linda Foley (8/30/2013 2:39:00 PM)

    I believe the An astounding crate full of air. is a reference to the Great Irish Elk been displayed in a museum after been taken from the bog the bog had preserved it for centuries it was now in the open

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  • Giles Watson (8/27/2013 11:35:00 AM)

    It should be encroaching horizon in Line 4. Frankie, I don't know if you've ever seen an assembled skeleton of an Irish Elk, but it is awe-inspiring, and An astounding crate full of air is a particularly apt description of its ribcage. It is brilliant, because on the one hand, the mounted museum specimen really is full of nothing but air, but also because the ribcage would once have held the creature's lungs. Irish Elks were enormous animals.

  • Frankie Jansen Van Rensburg (5/12/2013 5:44:00 PM)

    Can someone please explain to me this paragraph:
    They've taken the skeleton
    Of the Great Irish Elk
    Out of the peat, set it up
    An astounding crate full of air.
    I'm particularly confused with the last line.

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