Reading Aloud (#3): Seamus Heaney’s “The Harrow-Pin” (2006)

The Harrow-Pin

We’d be told, “If you don’t behave
There’ll be nothing in your Christmas stocking for you
But an old kale stalk.” And we would believe him.

But if kale meant admonition, a harrow-pin
Was correction’s veriest unit.
Head-banged spike, forged fang, a true dead ringer

Out of a harder time, it was a stake
He’d drive through aspiration and pretence
For our instruction.

Let there once be any talk of decoration,
A shelf for knick-knacks, a picture-hook or -rail,
And the retort was instant: “Drive a harrow-pin.”

Brute-forced, rusted, haphazardly set pins
From harrows wrecked by horse-power over stones
Lodged in the stable wall and on them hung

Horses’ collars lined with sweat-veined ticking,
Old cobwebbed reins and hames and eye-patched winkers,
The tackle of the mighty, simple dead.

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