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.
Copyright © 2013 by Eavan Boland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 24, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.
About this Poem
"I owned these beads once. I was always struck by how dark they were at first and then how quickly they took in light. Amethyst is a quartz and quartzes have such a mysterious existence on this planet, seamed into rocks and even taking in some radiation as they form. Thinking about that, it somehow didn't seem too much of a stretch to migrate from the world to the underworld here."
Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1944. One of Ireland's preeminent contemporary poets, she is the author of A Poet's Dublin (Carcanet Press, 2014) and A Women Without a Country (W. W. Norton, 2014), among others. She died on April 27, 2020.
Date Published: 2013-12-24
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/amethyst-beads