Seamus Heaney (1939–2013)
Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in —
Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up
Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
and raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait
For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those who had known him all along.
Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Born in Northern Ireland, he was the oldest of nine children. Until his teenage years Heaney lived on his small family farm. Later, he lived in Belfast (1957–1972), and then taught at Berkeley, Harvard, and Oxford.
This poem considers the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2 from the perspective of the friends. It's taken from his book Human Chain (2010), poems that Heaney wrote after he suffered a stroke in 2005 and that concentrate on suffering and mortality.