Beware the Treachery of Irish Nostalgia: A Poem by Eavan Boland

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Eavan Boland

“Mise Éire”

I won’t go back to it –
into old dactyls,
oaths made
by the animal tallows
of the candle –

land of the Gulf Stream,
the small farm,
the scalded memory,
the songs
that bandage up the history,
the words
that make a rhythm of the crime

where time is time past.
A palsy of regrets.
No. I won’t go back.
My roots are brutal:

I am the woman –
a sloven’s mix
of silk at the wrists,
a sort of dove-strut
in the precincts of the garrison –

who practises
the quick frictions,
the rictus of delight
and gets cambric for it,
rice-coloured silks.

I am the woman
in the gansy-coat
on board the ‘Mary Belle’,
in the huddling cold,

holding her half-dead baby to
her as the wind shifts east
and north over the dirty
water of the wharf

mingling the immigrant
guttural with the vowels
of homesickness who neither
knows nor cares that

a new language
is a kind of scar
and heals after a while
into a passable imitation
of what went before.

 

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