A Constable Calls
© By Seamus Heaney
His bicycle stood at the window-sill,
The rubber cowl of a mud-splasher
Skirting the front mudguard,
Its fat black handlegrips
Heating in sunlight, the “spud”
Of the dynamo gleaming and cocked back,
The pedal treads hanging relieved
Of the boot of the law.
His cap was upside down
On the floor, next his chair.
The line of its pressure ran like a bevel
In his slightly sweating hair.
He had unstrapped
The heavy ledger, and my father
Was making tillage returns
In acres, roods, and perches.
Arithmetic and fear.
I sat staring at the polished holster
With its buttoned flap, the braid cord
Looped into the revolver butt.
“Any other root crops?
Mangolds? Marrowstems? Anything like that?”
“No.” But was there not a line
Of turnips where the seed ran out
In the potato field? I assumed
Small guilts and sat
Imagining the black hole in the barracks.
He stood up, shifted the baton-case
Further round on his belt,
Closed the domesday book,
Fitted his cap back with two hands,
And looked at me as he said goodbye.
A shadow bobbed in the window.
He was snapping the carrier spring
Over the ledger. His boot pushed off
And the bicycle ticked, ticked, ticked.
© Seamus Heaney, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.
This poem by Heaney describes the uneasy relationship between Northern Ireland Catholics before the troubles and an armed police force.The ‘ticked,ticked ticked’ of the bicycle in the last line suggests an explosion about to happen, the eruption of violence out of these tense relationships.