Two Lorries

It's raining on black coal and warm wet ashes.
There are tyre-marks in the yard, Agnew's old lorry
Has all its cribs down and Agnew the coalman
With his Belfast accent's sweet-talking my mother.
Would she ever go to a film in Magherafelt?
But its's raining and he still has half the load

To deliver farther on. This time the lode
Our coal came from was silk-black, so the ashes
Will be the silkiest white. The Magherafelt
(Via Toomebridge) bus goes by. The half-stripped lorry
With its emptied, folded coal-bags moves my mother:
The tasty ways of a leather-aproned coalman!

And films no less! The conceit of a coalman...
She goes back in and gets out the black lead
And emery paper, this nineteen-forties mother,
All business round her stove, half-wiping ashes
With a backhand from her cheek as the bolted lorry
Gets revved and turned and heads for Magherafelt

And the last delivery. Oh, Magherafelt!
Oh, dream of red plush and a city coalman
As time fastforwards and a different lorry
Groans into shot, up Broad Street, with a payload
That will blow the bus station to dust and ashes...
After that happened, I'd a vision of my mother,

A revenant on the bench where I would meet her
In that cold-floored waiting-room in Magherafelt,
Her shopping bags full up with shovelled ashes.
Death walked out past her like a dust-faced coalman
Refolding body-bags, plying his load
Empty upon empty, in a flurry

Of motes and engine-revs, but which lorry
Was it now? Young Agnew's or that other,
Heavier, deadlier one, set to explode
In a time beyond her time in Magherafelt...
So tally bags and sweet-talk darkness, coalman.
Listen to the rain spit in new ashes

As you heft a load of dust that was Magherafelt,
Then reappear from your lorry as my mother's
Dreamboat coalman filmed in silk-white ashes.

from The Spirit Level (Faber, 1996), copyright © Seamus Heaney 1996, used by permission of the author and the publisher


Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney Reading from his Poems

1Death of a Naturalist

2Blackberry Picking

3Mid-term Break

4The Peninsula


6Anahorish 7Broagh

8The Tollund Man

9Mossbawn Sunlight

10The Grauballe Man




14Glanmore Sonnets: Dogger, Rockall, Malin...

15The Harvest Bow

16The Underground

17A Kite for Michael and Christopher

18The Railway Children

19Station Island, section 7

20The Haw Lantern

21Clearances: sonnets 2, 3, 5, 8


23Squarings: section 8

24Seeing Things

25The Skylight

26Two Lorries

27St Kevin and the Blackbird

28A Call



31Bann Valley Eclogue

32Electric Light

33The Blackbird of Glanmore

Books by Seamus Heaney