The Loaning

Seamus Heaney

As I went down the loaning to the fields
the wind shifting in the hedge
was like an old one’s whistling speech.
I knew then I was in the limbo of lost words.

They had flown there from outhouses and crossroads,
from under rotten carts and churchyard walls.
I saw them streaming out of birch-white throats
to nest a while in those old places, then
on a day close as a stranger’s breath
rising in smoky crowds on the summer sky
to settle in the uvulae of mossed stones
and the soft lungs of the hawthorn.

I knew then why from the beginning
the loaning breathed upon me
though now each hole in the hedge was blowing cold
as I went stooped and shivering beneath
the spit blood of a few last haws and rose-hips.