Reading Heaney’s “Nerthus”
for S. Ben-Tov
Afternoon sun of Ohio’s August
daubs the classroom with early rust.
Eight of us bristle, apprenticed
to nail the world to its sentence.
Poet’s poet, our teacher hands us
a copy each of Heaney’s ‘Nerthus’.
A chill creeps in me as she reads.
From Heaney-soil, that concrete dark,
an unseen ash-fork staked in bog:
my first portents of winter north.
We have all heard the name
but not Heaney’s Great Chain of Verbs.
We stall. And do not fathom
the quiet mesh of kesh and loaning
that lull and push of middle-voice
that verb say
the long-grained never static
of the poem’s non-finite aesthetic