Changes

Seamus Heaney

As you came with me in silence
to the pump in the long grass

I heard much that you could not hear:
the bite of the spade that sank it,

the slithering and grumble
as the mason mixed his mortar,

and women coming with white buckets
like flashes on their ruffled wings.

The cast-iron rims of the lid
clinked as I uncovered it,

something stirred in its mouth.
I had a bird’s eye view of a bird,

finch-green, speckled and white,
nesting in dry leaves, flattened, still,

suffering the light.
So I roofed the citadel

as gently as I could, and told you
and you gently unroofed it

but where was the bird now?
There was the single egg, pebbly white,

and from the rusted bend of the snout
tail-feathers splayed and sat tight.

So tender, I said, ‘Remember this.
It will be good for you to retrace this path

when you fear you have grown up at last
and come forever to the empty city.’