Seamus Heaney: 'Had I not been awake' in Human Chain.
Seamus Heaney's latest collection opens with an admission which reminds us all of our cognitive fragility :
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore...'
Heaney's opening reminds us of our mortality and shares, in a most casually intimate manner, the revelation of living alive to both our senses and our ability to express such experience. The poem shapes and reshapes Heaney's elation at being still here, still awake, still able to observe and enjoy the vitality of the moment. Heaney's stroke has suffused his writing with a heightened awareness of the inevitable disappearance of the self. Anyone who has been seriously ill and has recovered, could join in with Heaney's extraordinarily animated resurrection of perception:
'And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it...'
The extra awareness of the 'pulse' of being- comes through so tangibly here that the reader feels the very 'skip' of the poet's aliveness and a gratitude for each particle of experience as it is savoured and 'mindfully' taken in.
And I do so enjoy the implicit irony that we are frequently not 'awake' to our lives, and in that being asleep to life, we miss so much more than just ourselves!