Countless words have been written about the sad, premature death of Seamus Heaney last Friday. Not many of them will endure, even fewer will express anything like the craft and beauty of the poet. On Saturday morning I stood in Skainos Square with Nial O’Neill, the lead architect of Skainos. We spoke about the loss of Heaney and the snatches of his poems we remembered.
Nial recalled the poem ‘The Skylight’ – an appropriate poem for an architect I guess. I hunted it down on my smart phone and read it in the Square.
You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.
But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning. Skainos was playing host to all sorts of people of all cultures as part of the East Belfast Arts Festival, and we were both excited at how a long held dream had been realised in this beautiful place in which we were standing.
I thought that there was something of a lifting of a lid about the project, about letting in light. And there were the words I required to express my emotions about the place. This inner urban place, in the words of a rural Bellaghy poet. I feel a little bit like an inhabitant of a place, become periphery to the main story, who had been afforded the privilege of witnessing something truly incredible.