THE INSTALLMENT PLAN – Twice Shy, by Seamus Heaney

 Twice Shy

by Seamus Heaney

Her scarf a la Bardot,
In suede flats for the walk,
She came with me one evening
For air and friendly talk.
We crossed the quiet river,
Took the embankment walk.

Traffic holding its breath,
Sky a tense diaphragm:
Dusk hung like a backcloth
That shook where a swan swam,
Tremulous as a hawk
Hanging deadly, calm.

A vacuum of need
Collapsed each hunting heart
But tremulously we held
As hawk and prey apart,
Preserved classic decorum,
Deployed our talk with art.

Our Juvenilia
Had taught us both to wait,
Not to publish feeling
And regret it all too late –
Mushroom loves already
Had puffed and burst in hate.

So, chary and excited,
As a thrush linked on a hawk,
We thrilled to the March twilight
With nervous childish talk:
Still waters running deep
Along the embankment walk.


  1. Larry French

    Thanks so much, Ann. A wonderful poem, full of the charming tender timidity of young love. I wonder if the setting is Belfast or area, has the ring also of Dublin. Can the young woman be Marie, future spouse???? whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Sligo during Yeats festival.
    Big transatlantic kiss,

  2. E. Pauline Sandys

    Thank you for this breath-holding piece by SH.

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