Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet

- 1944-
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting 
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe 
what really happened is 

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and 
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of 

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

More by Eavan Boland

Quarantine

In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Amethyst Beads


And when I take them out of
the cherrywood box these beads are
the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then
at the well of the throat where
tears start
they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress
of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping.
A mysterious brightness
made underground where there is no sun
only stories of a strayed child and her mother bargaining
with a sullen king. Promising and arguing: 
what she can keep, what she can let him have. Shadows 
and the season violets start up in are part of 
the settlement. Stolen from such a place
these beads cannot be anything 
but wise to the healing arts of compromise,
of survival. And when I wear them it is almost
as if my skin was taking into itself
a medicine of light. Something like the old simples.
Rosemary, say, or tansy.
Or camomile which they kept
to cool fever. Which they once used to soothe a child
tossing from side to side, beads of sweat catching 
and holding a gleam from the vigil lamp. 
A child crying out in her sleep
Wait for me. Don’t leave me here.
Who will never remember this.
Who will never remember this. 

Heroic

Sex and history. And skin and bone.
And the oppression of Sunday afternoon.
Bells called the faithful to devotion.

I was still at school and on my own.
And walked and walked and sheltered from the rain.

The patriot was made of drenched stone.
His lips were still speaking. The gun
he held had just killed someone.

I looked up. And looked at him again.
He stared past me without recognition.

I moved my lips and wondered how the rain
would taste if my tongue were made of stone.
And wished it was. And whispered so that no one
could hear it but him. Make me a heroine.