16 pages 32 minutes read

Seamus Heaney

Two Lorries

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1996

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Embracing the Present

The dual timelines of this piece effectively show us the impermanence of time, and how important it is to make the most of each moment. Opening with a childhood snapshot of a moment in time, we see how the young coalman Agnew propositions the poet’s mother to go see a film with him in the city. Though tempted by “the tasty ways of a leather-aproned coalman” (Line 12), she eventually returns to her kitchen, cleaning the stove and attending to the usual business of the day-to-day running of a home. The coalman drives away, and the speaker is left to wonder at what might have been.

Years later, the mother has passed away and the speaker imagines the destruction of the bomb explosion in Magherafelt. He speaks of time fast forwarding into the future, as it so often does as one ages, and then of countless lives cut short: “Refolding body-bags […] / Empty upon empty” (Lines 29-30). It is only in death, only after their time has already run out, that the poet’s mother and Agnew the coalman get their happy ending at last. Through these parallel stories, the reader learns how precarious time can be; the poem encourages the reader to embrace the time one has and live it to its fullest.