The Irish equivalent of the BBC conducted a poll to find the most loved Irish poem of the twentieth century – and a ballad to peeling potatoes, which involves love for one’s mammy, made the top slot.
This is not a joke.
The poem, inevitably, was written by “Famous” Seamus, Seamus Heaney.
The poem has been described as “only lovely”.
‘When all the others were away at Mass’
When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
From New Selected Poems 1966-1987, Faber and Faber Ltd.